Why People Don't Report Sexual Assault Right Away
By Albie Nicol
Because I didn’t think it could be ‘rape’ if I was in a relationship with them.
Because I knew everyone would believe him instead of me anyways.
Because I was threatened with violence, or even death.
For a survivor of sexual assault sometimes even just waking up and being alive is the hardest thing one can do. Opening your eyes, glancing to the clock or your phone, and fighting the urge to just sink back into the mattress and pretend like you’ve never existed is a momentary battle inside 24 hours of war with oneself.
Because he was my boss.
Because she was my French professor.
Because I had a different partner at the time.
Every survivor of sexual assault is asked if they’ve reported the incident. When they say they haven’t, or don’t want to, people get frustrated, or don’t seem to understand. But the thing is, you don’t have to understand. Each survivor has their own very personal reason as to why they did or did not report, and that explanation is not something you are entitled to.
It’s also not something people want to talk about. The shame or dirty feeling that sometimes comes with assault is scary and not something you want to discuss. Talking about the assault overall isn’t easy directly after, or even years after the assault.
Because I thought it was only rape if you said ‘no’.
Because they convinced me that I ‘wanted it’.
Because my pastor said it would cause a scandal.
Sexual assault survivors face a constant struggle with their experience. Do they choose to share it and possibly see a conviction of their abuser, but also see the possibility of invalidation in the systemic issue of privilege involved when it comes to survivors/abusers?
Or do they choose to share within their smaller circle, ensuring some sense of emotional support, and compassion during the healing process without the threat of public victim-shaming or reaching and irrelevant questions like, “but what were you wearing?”
A lot of evidence used in cases of sexual assault needs to be collected within 72 hours to be useful or considered reliable for court purposes. But those first few days after an assault can be earth shattering, shame-inducing, and anxiety-throttling. The idea of going to a hospital or service to be examined and specimens taken doesn’t necessarily sound attractive, or even possible for the survivor.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford brought her story to light 36 years later. Anita Hill waited 10 years. Brave survivors aren’t just public survivors. And they don’t always report right away for any given number of reasons. And that’s okay.
I leave you today with the reasons I didn’t report:
He coerced me.
I didn’t think if he ‘loved’ me, that it could be rape.
He was prominent in the queer community.
Your experience is valid, reported or not- and there is so much more to your story than why you did or didn’t report. No one can take that away from you, you are not alone.