The following post was written by Anonymous; I praise her for her courage.
Sexual assault is a topic that has been increasingly discussed and debated in recent history, so much so that when I sat down to write this month’s ago I was at a loss on where to start, as well as how to approach the topic. I asked myself: “Do I approach this topic as a Mental Health Professional, who has treated women who have been sexually assaulted and the impact of this on their interpersonal relationships, emotional reactivity and daily lives? or Do I approach this topic from the perspective of my own personal experiences as a woman who has been sexually assaulted”. As a therapist, I often do not share personal experiences and this was something that terrified me. Then Dr. Christine Blasey Ford made her testimony against Brett Kavanaugh, and women in various settings, with no knowledge of my own history, started asking me questions such as: “Have you ever reported being harassed/sexually assaulted/raped?” This question came up frequently. This is when I realized what I needed to write, not some clinical interpretation as a mental health professional, but my story: my reason behind why I did not and still will not report. For me, like many other women, it was not one reason, but a multitude of reasons, why I did not report. To begin, I didn’t fully understand what had occurred to me. I was in shock and I questioned what happened. When I was raped at 18 years old by someone close to me, I was a virgin and it was my first experience with sex. I grew up in a household where sex wasn’t talked about. I went to Catholic, private schools my entire life where I never received sex education; I was taught, “just don’t do it.” I thought that maybe what happened was normal for your first time.
I will not go into details about my experience, but it was certainly not normal. My first instinct was to call it rape but I was scared of that word and label. I was scared of what others would think of me if I spoke about it and I was scared what my family would think of me and what they would do if they knew. I was scared that I would be viewed as less because of the experience. I was scared and l was alone. Lastly reporting never even crossed my mind, I was flooded with thoughts at the time; I never thought of it, and if I did I had no idea how to go about reporting it.
The weeks following my rape, I tried sorting through my thoughts and got the courage to try and talk to a friend about what happened, telling this person I was raped and I gave minimal details. Testing out how what I had to say would be received. The response crushed me. My friend’s response included statements such as: “I think rape is more violent than that”, and “By a stranger. You knew the person and had a relationship with the person, therefore it wasn’t rape.” More violent, I was in so much pain I could barely sit for a week after. That was the last time I spoke about what happened until six years later.
Six years later, I found myself in graduate school studying to become a psychotherapist sitting in my trauma class when certain events lead me to share my story. As I shared for the first time in six years to a room full of people I was shaking, shaking so much I couldn’t control it. Once again, I was scared, scared how it would be received, scared I wouldn’t be believed, scared that my experience wasn’t valid, scared he would somehow found out I spoke. This time I got a different reaction. I was believed, and embraced by my classmates. I am still touched by this reaction I received til this day and it will be an experience I will carry with me forever.
Although this was a transformative experience drastically different from the first time I shared, I still say I still would not report today. I say that for the above reasons that still hold true til this day almost ten years later and for another reason: I can not face my rapist. Since that night, I have seen him on occasion; he ignores me and I ignore him, but my body reacts: I start shaking and I become hyper-vigilant. Rape and sexual assault is not about sex; it never was. Rape is about power and when someone rapes you, they take your power through the fear they instill in you. I am still scared and I can not foresee at this time coming forward and reporting. I can talk in general terms but I could not face him. I know it was not my fault, but my voice and my innocence was stolen almost ten years ago and my path to healing is still long and far ahead of me. This is why I have chosen to remain anonymous and why I silently root for the women who speak up and I help other women speak their truth.
Reporting is not always the end to your pain; many times it can be the start of a long and cold process that will instill more fear, and this is why I will still not report to this day.