Note: this post contains information about sexual assault. While it is deliberately not graphic, it still may be detailed enough to be disturbing or upsetting. It is also a huge risk for me emotionally to share this information, but I am trying to add my voice to the many other brave voices out there trying to explain why it is not uncommon not to report sexual assault.
Tweets like this compel people to do things they never thought they would have to do:
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
Sounds to me like POTUS is implying that there is some level of BS because Dr. Ford didn’t report her sexual assault when it happened, which has prompted responses using #WhyIDidntReport.
I shared on Facebook this week that I have been sexually assaulted twice in my life, and I reported neither of them. Here’s why.
Assault #1: I was approximately 10 years old, and I was spending the night at my friend’s house, like I had done many times before. This night, I woke up not feeling well. I told my friend and she woke her parents. Her dad came in to sit with me. We were sleeping in the family room, my friend on the floor, me on the couch. My friend’s dad sat on the couch at my head and was kind of patting my head and hair, which was a little weird to me, but it didn’t feel bad. Eventually he worked his hand down the front of my nightgown, and I’d prefer to not go into specific detail beyond this. When he did this, I froze. I didn’t move. I tried not to breathe. I thought maybe if he thought I was asleep he’d leave. I was scared. It felt weird. He eventually stopped and went away. I told no one. Here’s why: I had no idea how to tell my parents what happened. It would have been embarrassing. I wasn’t even sure that I was right to feel weird about it. This was my friend’s dad, a man I knew who had always been nice to me. Maybe this wasn’t a bad thing? Maybe this was how he helped his kids feel better? It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that what this man did was one of the most wrong and violating things a person can do.
Assault #2: I was 14 and on vacation with my friend. We went to a campground where her extended family was vacationing. I met her 17 year old cousin who I thought was cute. I flirted with him. I was a boy-crazy teenaged girl. He flirted back with me. One night we went for a walk out into the nearby woods. I remember hoping he might kiss me. He did. And more. Both over and under my clothes. Again, I prefer not to go into the specific details. When he started to put his hands under my clothes, I asked him to stop. More than once. He did not stop. He ignored me and was forceful. I didn’t tell anyone about this. Here’s why: I was embarrassed. I was afraid I’d get in trouble for doing something sexual — I didn’t want adults to know I ever did anything sexual in nature, especially my parents. I was afraid I’d be called a tease. After all, I flirted with him. I wanted him to kiss me. I sent him signals that I liked him. I felt like it was my fault that it happened. I was afraid my friend and her family wouldn’t believe me, and I was at their mercy since I was on vacation with them. I seriously didn’t think this was sexual assault until probably a year ago or so when #MeToo really started to gain momentum. It was then that I realized that this event (as well as the other) was indeed sexual assault.
I had never shared any of this with anyone except my husband, and even then, I didn’t tell him about sexual assault #2 until a few years ago. To be quite honest, I don’t really want to share any of this with anyone now, either, but I am sick of people doubting women’s stories because they didn’t report it. I’m not necessarily sorry that I never reported it, except for the fact that I’m sure these two men also went on to sexually assault other women or little girls, as might be the case from my first account. I feel terrible that my inaction might have caused harm to others. But I can’t change the past. All I can do is try to help by enlightening others as to why people don’t report. It seems to me that Dr. Ford had plenty of reasons not to report what happened to her. If that had been me, I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to know I was doing anything sexual, and I wouldn’t have wanted my parents to know I had been drinking or that I was at a party where there was booze. I would have been scared about what other kids at school would think or say (which is a legit reason if you understand anything about the value teens put on the opinions of their peers).
Women have little to gain personally by reporting a sexual assault. It won’t negate what happened. It won’t remove the damage that was done or heal the injuries that were caused. All it does, at best, is prevent someone else from going through the same hell, and at worst, drag the woman’s past and reputation through the mud and paint her as some sort of slut who deserved what happened to her. In Dr. Ford’s case, she has absolutely nothing to gain by reporting it now and much to lose.
To me, this story has transcended whether or not some man gets to be nominated to the Supreme Court. It has become another story trying to explain to the world why women don’t report rapes and sexual assaults. It’s not easy to do — at all. I beg people to please try a little empathy. It might just help you be able to help others.