On Reporting Rape: Actually, You Can

This writing is almost wholly dedicated to the support of this video that I made the other day, in which I addressed the apprehensiveness about reporting rape and discussing rape in Western culture. The video should really stand on its own, but in this age of Extreme Outrage At All The Things, I thought it would be pertinent (read: much, much safer) to publish congruently a Medium article which articulates the more nuanced parts of my video.

First of all, the video was made by someone with a Western perspective. This perspective isn’t explicit in the video (with the exception of the background decor) but it’s very important given the topic and the ways in which I address it. This video obviously isn’t for indentured peoples. It clearly is not for the women of the world who will be socially shunned and publicly shammed to the extreme, and in some cases stoned to death, as a consequence of being known to have been raped. This video doesn’t address those things because I don’t believe that I have the capacity to influence change in some of the oldest cultures and countries on this planet. It was hard for me to believe, too, but that’s just most likely to be the case. Western culture, by contrast, commonly has at very least laws in place which are supposed to hold a rapist accountable for his or her criminal actions. The video presumes there is someone to whom one is able to even report rape in the first place. I know this is a Western perspective, please save your outrage for another topic.

Moving on…

This is the furthest thing from a “rape apology” you will ever find, so before you criticize the video or this article, I highly suggest introducing pretty much an entirely new lexicon to your world. The expressions found here are also not an accusatory berating of rape victims; so take your false, subjective accusations elsewhere. Please.

This is about someone offering at least one voice that says “You can” to the rape victims who have so many reasons which are legitimate to them, personally, to not report rape. If every rape victim has to face the threat of losing their job, friends, partner, respect or dignity on their own, the challenge of reporting is insurmountable. Together, though; through a concerted effort to bring forth the acceptance of the idea that there is neither shame nor blame in reporting, society can offer a shoulder to that burden and a collective promise that, as a rape victim, “you can” report your assault.

This video got made because the same professional victimhood that drove so many of the twitter dramas which subsequently found their way into mainstream news (i.e. #GamerGate making its way to the United Nations and the Yale lecturer who resigned over freaking halloween costumes, etc.) originated in the outrage flames of the exact same group which loudly continues to attempt to silence anyone who even suggests that rape victims report their assault. As an underemployed sociology undergrad, frankly, it just bothers me. It’s not the world I want to live in; I just think people are better than that. So, this is about bringing those people up to a place that is beyond their trauma and pain to a place where they truly believe that they will not forever be a victim, because that’s just a hard, sad and painful place to spend our days. If you’ve been there, you know it. You know you wouldn’t wish it on anyone. We shouldn’t be encouraging anyone to maintain that state of mind for any longer than is necessary to process the pain and grief and trauma of something so personally violating as rape.

If you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted and have not reported your rape, know that it’s not just your rape that you’ll be reporting. It’s literally possibly the report of the rape of others, if your assailant is serial in nature. It is also other people’s rapes which you are re-iterating, because when you report a rape, you are lending significance to the statistics and data which already exist. In the style of my entire video, I realize that acknowledging this directly may come off as a bit harsh. However your — yes, YOUR — individual rape has got to be a part of the statistics that are being analyzed when it comes to questions such as, “How much should any particular city spend on the prevention and treatment of rape victims?’, for example. How would any municipality know what kind of and how many resources it needs to treat rape victims if no victims of rape make a report, or if there is not some kind of database dedicated to tracking such information? It’s impossible! I contend that we cannot — absolutely, quantifiably, effectively cannot— address the issue of rape without knowing the extent to which it occurs, and that begins by knowing A) Where rape is occurring B) The rate at which rape occurs C) The situations in which rape seems most likely to occur, and so on.

It’s just not going to change if we keep dealing with it by staying silent.

Rape victims are the number one most important voice when it comes to addressing the issue of rape, and we will never, ever win that fight as long as victims of rape are encouraged to think that they should remain silent; whether the implied reason for silence is violence, embarrassment, humiliation, do-nothingness, threat of employment, or personal comfort.

So, it’s hard. It’s so hard to talk about things that took so much away from you and hurt you so much. It’s hard to go alone, so if you have someone who you feel that you can bring, don’t be afraid to ask that person. And if you don’t have anyone to bring with you, THAT’S when you need to get on Twitter, or Facebook, or Tumblr, etc. You go there, and you say what you are going to do, and there will be support. There will be people who will come to you and remind you that you are doing the right thing. If you need to create an anonymous account so that you don’t fear retaliation in the real world, you can do that. That’s what anonymity is for. There are good people on the internet who will remind you that you absolutely do have the strength to get through this, and they can know that because they will be sure of it themselves. You do not have to hide, or feel guilty or self-conscious.

And even if no one came to support your report, then what? Would that take away from the importance of sharing your story? Would it make your experience any less significant?

I contend that it would not. If no one came to support you as you go to identify your rapist and stop the cycle of violence that you would not wish on another human being, it wouldn’t matter. What matters is that you’re doing everything you can to make sure that this does not keep happening. What matters is that you’re taking the first step to confronting — and therefore overcoming — your trauma. What matters is that you are not allowing yourself and your life to be swallowed whole by one particular moment or period of time in your life. What matters is that no one can keep you down.

I felt like this video needed to be made because, across the different realms of social media community, the loudest voice is the one demonizing people who encourage victims of rape to report their assailant to authorities. Setting aside the issues inherent in the system, the bottom line is that without the quantifiable data made possible by such reports, nothing can can be done about rape: We can’t identify it’s perpetuators, we cannot draw patterns of habit, we can’t quantify its occurrence and we cannot strategically work to end this far too common problem.

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t reported a rape or sexual assault in the past. There are so many real things discouraging people from doing so. But know that your story is important, and anytime you’d like to report it (or write or even just talk about it), you won’t just be helping to prevent a future assault. Regardless of when you decide to confront your experience, you’ll be helping yourself to bring yourself past that period in your life when you were unable, into a place where you believe that you are stronger than that moment.

Lots of people believe you can do this.

I also believe you can do this.

Believe you can do this.

You can do this.

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