TW: sexual assault / rape / violence
Last week I shared another segment of this piece. I intend to share the piece in it’s entirety when I gather myself enough to write its accompanying story.
One little known fact about me is that every time I smell coconut oil, I am reminded that I did not report a rape in 2015. I did not report it because: I knew that nothing would happen to him if I did, and the process would be long, drawn out, painful, stressful, and emotionally damaging to me. An explanation that too many women will relate to. The process would have hurt more than it helped.
I did not want to spend Christmas Day in a police station. I have a child, and at Christmas, it is with him that I need to be. I knew from experience that the man in question was unlikely to be held accountable and charged, but I would be interrogated like a criminal. As if he was the victim not me.
I was not physically strong enough for this, nor did I have the mental energy. Also, I would likely need a lawyer if it went to trial which I couldn’t afford.
So what did I do? I took the morning after pill. I went to my doctor for a STI screen. I talked to my psychologist. I avoided going out. I threw out the skirt I had been wearing (a maxi skirt, by the way). I didn’t tell anyone initially. I mean what would the point have been?
Eventually, I told a male friend, and we talked about it. I told him who it was… and he knew of him. In fact he knew some of this guys friends. He told them. They told him. He laughed, denied it, then bragged about sleeping with me.
Some months later, the same man approached me in a bar and hit on me, trying to pay for my cocktail at the bar. I remember thinking, if you don’t recognise me, the woman you violently raped, how many other women have you done it to?
I ignored him, until his friend asked me why I was being hostile. I said to him, “Last time your friend met me, he raped me.”
To which he replied, “That’s a big allegation.”
My response? “I am not making it lightly. You need to leave.”
Now, you may know that I live in a small town. In my town it can be hard to keep a secret. In 2016, I was informed that this same man had done the same thing to someone else. His friends who he had denied assaulting me to many months earlier, approached my friend and confided in him that something had happened. I was never given the details, and I don’t want them.
I know it isn’t on me – but I will live with this forever. Would me reporting him have helped another woman, or just put me through more hell?
I have seen him since – on online dating sites, in the streets and out on the town. He isn’t in jail.
Women who report sexual assaults are made to prove their innocence, and expected to do so in a tidy and polite way, while being interrogated as criminals in court. We are accused of being dishonest and without virtues (which shouldn’t even be a thing). This affects our health, our work, our families and almost never results in the man being accountable because “he said she said, and you had a glass of wine.”
In fact not only are we are unable to report rapes, we cannot even discuss rape without being interrupted by men telling us that women make false allegations, or that we don’t know the man’s story. I actually don’t ever need to hear a man saying ‘not all men,’ again. If you say this all I hear is “Living with male privilege affords me the confidence and protection to remain ignorant and use my energy to make statements that minimise and therefore increase the risks women face everyday of their lives.”
I tell you, when we are recovering from an assault we don’t have the energy to deal with y’all and your fragility. We need the rapist to be held accountable and stopped from perpetrating again, we also need medical care (both physical and trauma counselling). Often we also need police protection post assault – when the perpetrator is known to us, we are often at risk when we attempt press charges. This doesn’t happen. Blame does.
Women under-report assaults because it is unsafe for us to report them. It is also pointless most of the time. We get blamed, and the perpetrator is made out to be the victim. It is too hard.
So we often don’t file reports… only then we are blamed for the future actions of the perpetrators.
Enough is enough.
Men need to step up here. Men are responsible for their violence against women. Women are not.