Please take a moment to read this blog post by Luaren Nelson. Nelson’s explanation of our rape culture is simple and spot on. The images and media-driven messages shared in her post are great examples of why so few women feel safe speaking out about or reporting a rape. They are also great examples of why so many men continue to feel empowered to commit violent acts against women.
I remember everything that happened leading up to my assault at 19, and everything that happened after. My psyche took me to another place during the attack and (thankfully) left me with just one small memory: I opened my eyes to see an open window about a foot away. It was summertime, and I could hear people outside in the distance. I thought to myself, “What would happen if I screamed right now? Would anyone hear me? Would anyone help me? Or would it just make everything worse?” I didn’t scream, but I did survive.
It took many years and lots of therapy to be at peace enough with my experience to talk about it openly. I never reported my assault or outed my attacker to anyone who knew him. I think I would choose differently now– but I’m not the same person I was at 19. I made the right choice for the person I was at that time, in that set of circumstances.
If someone trusts you enough to tell you they were assaulted, please DO NOT tell them they have to report it. Don’t say, “You have to speak out or he’ll hurt someone else.” No one benefits from having guilt piled on top of their pain. No one else gets to decide what a woman can handle following a rape. And a rape victim is not responsible for the past or future actions of her attacker. It is the rest of us who are responsible for creating a rape culture in the first place. Like the old saying goes, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”