My brothers and sisters and siblings and I, we have been violated. We have been attacked and groped and touched intentionally and carelessly and recklessly. Our attackers may know what they did to us; all the same, they may have forgotten entirely, relegated us and our pain to the insignificant past. We have been hurt beyond all telling. And we don’t report.
We don’t report because we haven’t always known how to phrase it. We weren’t taught as children to know when something done to us surpasses being uncomfortable and starts being a crime—and we know our attackers weren’t, either. We don’t know when sexual harassment becomes sexual assault or what the difference is between assault and misconduct. And if we don’t know what crime was committed, how are we supposed to seek justice?
We don’t report because we don’t trust that we will be protected. Too many of us have confided in someone only to have our experiences twisted against us. Allies and trusted friends join the ranks of the faceless thousands who would rather pretend we never existed. And if we can’t trust our friends and family, how are we supposed to trust a stranger in a police uniform?
We don’t report because for the most part, we’re trying to keep our lives on track. We don’t want to spend years hashing things out with our institutions and law enforcement and the people in power who refuse to expedite the process. We don’t have the emotional capital to relive our experiences in front of a court and an audience and reporters and a judge who probably won’t impose a significant punishment on our abusers. And if we can’t put ourselves through that, how are we supposed to face the rest of the world when word gets around?
We don’t report because we want to get better. We want to have more good days than bad ones. We want to have moments when we can forget our unspeakable trauma and just be normal again. We can’t afford to keep going back to therapy because we’ve been thrust into the limelight as having Lived Through a Bad Thing. We need to be able to decide we aren’t going to live through our assaults every single day of our lives. And sometimes that ends up being more important than justice.
We don’t report because we’re not taken seriously. Sure, people might believe that something happened to us, but taking it a step further and wanting our perpetrators held accountable still doesn’t fly with a surprising amount of the population.
We don’t report because it doesn’t register in our attackers’ minds that they’ve done something unspeakably wrong.
We don’t report because the world delights in leaving us behind.
We don’t report because when we’re left behind, we die.
We don’t report because not all victims are survivors.
We don’t report because we can’t report.
Not in this country. Not with these people.
So stop asking. ♦
If you’re interested in learning about my musical work involving sexual assault and rape culture, check out Letters from the Aftermath. If you or a loved one has experienced a sexual assault and needs support, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800)656-4673.