When I found myself crushed under the unwanted weight of a man, his hand over my mouth, I could only think, “How the hell did it come to this?” I’d found myself in a situation that evoked a fear no woman should ever have to face. I was violated and humiliated in the worst way, and looking back, I regret that I didn’t report the assault. These reasons may have stopped me from speaking out, but now, I want every woman to know that they shouldn’t stay silent if it happens to them:
- I knew him. We were friends. Our families knew each other. We shared the same social circle. After the assault, he told me that it would devastate anyone that knew, and he was right. How could I face everyone we knew and divulge such damaging information about him? If you’ve been assaulted, don’t fall into this same trap — tell someone.
- I’d been drinking. We’d gone to the bar and one drink after church turned into an afternoon filled with pinot grigios and whiskeys. My inhibitions were dulled, so maybe I didn’t remember correctly? Or maybe I did something to provoke it? I thought that I’d somehow forfeited my body’s rights when I decided to kick back one too many. Don’t fall for this lie — drinking or not, you still have a say in who comes in contact with your body.
- I thought I asked for it. I put myself in a compromising position by agreeing to an impromptu meeting with a married man that I knew had a thing for me. My desperate need for male attention drove me to engage in a flirtation with an unavailable man, and I felt like that alone made me the guilty one. I spent weeks afterwards replaying the scene in my head, surmising that the simple fact that I put myself in that position was enough to make it my fault. If you’ve been assaulted, don’t blame yourself; it’s not your fault.
- I was ashamed. When I told a friend what happened she immediately asked me, “What the hell did you THINK would happen when you met a married man for drinks and you knew he was trying to get in your pants?” And I supposed that anyone I told would echo the same sentiment. It wasn’t worth the risk of looking like a promiscuous woman or home wrecker. Don’t let your fear of judgment stop you from reporting an assault.
- I took the blame for it. I decided that I had somehow consented to the bruises on my arms and lower parts of my body, the ripped shirt, the leaves in my hair, and the dirt on my face. I decided that that’s what I got for putting myself in that situation. I thought that maybe if I told myself that I somehow played a part in it all, that the event wasn’t as degrading as I’d remembered.
- I didn’t have faith in the justice system. The last thing I wanted to do was go to a police station and rehash the events of that day, facing the humiliation, the questions, the long looks when they found out the details. I’d read about high-profile cases where the survivor’s name was dragged through the mud, and honestly, I just didn’t want to deal with that. This should never stop you from going to the authorities.
- I didn’t know it was assault. I wasn’t sure what exactly constituted sexual assault. I assumed that because I wasn’t raped, that the event was just the unfortunate misunderstanding between two adults who’d had too much to drink. Even though I couldn’t walk without wobbling for days, I was under the erroneous assumption that penetration had to occur for it to be considered assault. I now know that the true definition of sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of all parties.
- I concluded that “boys will be boys.” “Men are horny.” “They only think with their penis.” “All men want from women is sex.” I relied on these clichés to convince myself that it was just how men behaved. Many of my friends had experiences where men had attempted to force themselves on them in some way, so why should I report a “male” problem to more males? This is BS; don’t let such a flawed concept stop you from reporting an assault.
- I just wanted to move on with my life. And I did. I put the past behind me, distanced myself from my social circle, and took responsibility for the only thing that I could: me. I stopped blaming myself and realized that short skirts, flirting, and male hormones were never a valid excuse for assault. If you’ve been sexually assaulted, don’t fall prey to any of these lies — tell someone.