Why We Don’t Report It

Content warning: sexual violence and harassment

Photo credit: Sophia Guida

“Why don’t you report it?”

It’s up there on every list I’ve seen of things you shouldn’t say to sexual assault survivors, yet I keep hearing it.

“Why don’t you report it?” one of my former teachers asked me when I told her I was raped. She meant well, of course, but in that moment, I didn’t know what to say. The best thing I could say in response was, “I mean, I don’t have any evidence.”

But while not having evidence is one reason to not report an assault, I’ve come to realize there’s so much more to why survivors don’t report than that.

We don’t report it because we can’t remember every detail perfectly, and if we screw up, we’re lying about everything.

We don’t report it because we’re told it wasn’t that “severe” if it wasn’t rape.

We don’t report it because we love the person that hurt us and don’t want them to get in trouble.

We don’t report it because our race, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, or socioeconomic status makes us not worth fighting for.

We don’t report it because we’re scared we’ll get hurt again.

We don’t report it because our perpetrators are famous and dozens of us are worth less than one of them.

We don’t report it because if the police don’t believe us, we get arrested for “filing a false rape report.”

We don’t report it because when we tell administrators at our schools what happened, they ignore us, refuse to shake our hands, don’t keep us safe, or even expel us in violation of Title IX.

We don’t report it because every action of ours — moving our hips or laughing, moaning, freezing completely — becomes a sign of our consent.

We don’t report it because even when our perpetrators get convicted, they only get six-month sentences since going to jail would have a “severe impact” on them, which is more important than the severe impact being assaulted has on us.

We don’t report it because you tell us again and again and again that it’s our fault for drinking, for flirting, for our bodies reacting, for not taking that $30 self-defense class.

So the better question for you is, why would we report it?

Why would we put ourselves through the excruciating pain of a forensic exam or the risk of arrest, injury, and losing friends?

Reporting rape, assault, or harassment is an act of bravery, but not reporting is an act of bravery also. Not reporting means understanding the reality of our society’s impossible expectations for survivors. Not reporting means forging the path that’s truly best for you, not doing what people expect you to do.

I don’t report it because it’s not best for me. Reporting is detrimental to my wellbeing, and I have no obligation to do anything after an assault that doesn’t have my best interests, and only my best interests, at heart.

Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on June 6, 2016.

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