Content warning: sexual violence and harassment
“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’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 we’re scared we’ll get hurt again.
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.
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.