Only 344 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. That means about 2 out of 3 go unreported.
Given the criminal justice system we live in, I empathize with women who choose not to come forward immediately, if at all, after suffering through rape or an assault.
I saw the look in my father’s eyes when he thought I had been raped in college. He picked me up from the dorm one late night puking on myself. Someone had put something in my beer and my body did not react kindly. By the time he picked me up I was incoherent, covered in vomit, and none of my friends could tell him exactly what had happened, just that something was wrong. I woke the next morning with my dad pacing outside my childhood bedroom. All he could muster to say was ‘I don’t know what happened to you last night’ then he hung his head. I knew what he meant. In his eyes, I could see the pity he felt, the anger, and the failure he felt for his inability to protect me. And the fear. The overwhelming fear that I wouldn’t recover. I can’t imagine if I had been raped, if that would have been the way he and everyone else looked at me in response to being labeled a victim.
I am sure there are countless other reasons that can be attributed to why women don’t come forward and report an assault: the risk that no one will believe her story, the magnifying glass that is placed on her life while the police investigate, being attacked for every sexual decision she’s ever made, the embarrassment of it (because you must have done something wrong if someone assaulted you), and putting everything she’s built in jeopardy with that single admission, that someone assaulted me.
The women who do report a rape, because they have to or because they choose to, they have to manage the next steps publically. Starting with the investigation into their lives and their choices. It becomes the victim’s responsibility to sell the validity of their claim.
The police don’t have to come out and ask if you are lying or tell you it’s your fault, you can connect the dots from the questions asked: What were you wearing? Were you drunk? Did you give him mixed signals? Were you flirting with him? Did you say no? Did he hear you say no? Did you fight back?
Women lose when they are raped and they lose when they report their assault.
Consider the history of women’s rights, less than 100 years ago women didn’t have the right to vote. It wasn’t until 1963 that legislation was passed to advocate for women having an equal right to work and salary, which still isn’t equal in 2016.
What does it mean for a woman to be unable to work or earn the same as a man who does the same job? Beyond the offensive implications that women aren’t as qualified as men, it means a woman will be hard-pressed to earn enough to support her basic needs for survival. If a woman cannot earn enough to provide for her basic life needs, she becomes subservient to whoever can. That means in your grandmother’s lifetime and in some of our mother’s lifetimes, women lived in a world where you needed a man to survive.
Complete financial subservience is gone, but the shell of that systems remains. It’s the same reality I face about being Black. I live in a system that wasn’t designed to protect me, support me or for me to succeed in.
How can it be when the foundation of this system was built under the ideology that I am property, an object to be bought and sold, used for my goods and discarded?
The ideas we have now about equality were around when our constitution was signed. We now have new legislation, new movements, new faces and voices, but these aren’t new ideas.
If you think about what America was founded on, it’s been a raging success to its initial goals.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed
When these words were written into the constitution, they were meant quite literally. And by golly, every human (white man) that was protected in the constitution has been given life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - we have a handful of astronomically wealthy, powerful, white men who made their wealth and continue to grow wealth on the backs of everyone else. Just so you know, if you aren’t a wealthy white man, that document wasn’t created to support you, it was created to cage you. That document was created to keep the wealthy wealthy, the poor poor and the minorities (including women) in quiet submission to the reality of our democracy.
Most of us have been conditioned to believe, to prefer, to handle the aftermath of abuse quietly, privately, in our own home.
This is a systemic issue and a conditioning to handle injustice, assault, rape, and overall dehumanization of an entire gender with silence. We teach women to internalize blame for their assaults and if they don’t, the punishment received for daring to speak out against your oppressor is undoubtedly worse than the existing situation.
Women are expected to live quietly in fear of men and to silently work through the aftermath of being assaulted. And many of us do. Many of us quietly manage or rot from the inside out with unresolved abuse that we internalize as our own fault, are too embarrassed to share or are outright cornered about our safety if we speak.
Women are trying to adapt into in a system that purposely excluded them. Our cries are inconvenient for our oppressors and kindness shown to our plight is as optional as it ever was. Financial subservience is gone, but the reality of being controlled by an oppressor is still as real as it ever was.
I am personally exhausted to death of being silent, of being dismissed, of being polite, of being careful not to inconvenience anyone with my opinion.
In case no one has said it today, I am tired of seeing and hearing about my friends, sisters, and fellow women being assaulted and victimized. It is not okay, it will not be tolerated, it will not be handled quietly and I am here to say it every day until it stops.
I am not even exactly sure what I can do to change it, but I do know that talking about it is the best first step I have.