The shame of being sexually assaulted. The shame of possibly having put yourself in a dangerous situation. The shame of being humiliated when the opinions of others start to fly through the stratosphere.
To those who haven’t experienced sexual assault, it may not make sense. Why wouldn’t you report an abuser to the authorities?
Because it’s embarrassing. It’s humiliating. It’s scary to think that someone might not believe you, or might decide that you are actually at fault, that you brought it on yourself.
I was molested twice when I was a teenager. Nothing as horrible as rape – just groping. And I didn’t tell anyone. Why?
I was embarrassed to tell an adult. I’m still embarrassed when I think about it, even though I had nothing to do with it. I didn’t provoke it. I was just a teenage girl minding my own business. Don’t talk about it and it will just fade from memory. Hopefully no one else had noticed.
And if you were already involved with the abuser sexually, who’s to say that you didn’t give your consent? Only him. What if he lies? How would you prove it? After all, what if he creates a totally believable story? How would you prove that you didn’t agree to his abuse?
This issue has been in the forefront in Canadian news: Jian Ghomeshi, a popular Canadian radio show host and celebrity. Nine women have now come forward, accusing Ghomeshi of abuse. Apparently his defense is that he was participating in consensual masochistic sex. However, his argument is refuted by a professional dominatrix, in an interview she gave to The Huffington Post.
The public asks why women wait to come forward? Or why they never come forward? Why so many wait until someone else has already taken the first step? There is an excellent discussion about some of the reasons in a Mother Jones article.
I agree that abuse should be reported and brought to the attention of others, instead of hidden away in a secret lock-box of shame. The abuser should be punished, hopefully saving other women from the same fate. But I can also understand the flip side of the coin – why women sometimes don’t report it.
So the next time you begin to criticize the fact that a sexual assault victim didn’t report the crime, maybe you could think twice, and put yourself in her shoes. And if you’ve been in her shoes and still reported the crime, I applaud your courage. Maybe the rest of us can follow your example.