Twelve, by a classmate. Nineteen, by a supervisor. Twenty-three, by a friend. Twenty-nine, by a date. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police. Here is why I didn’t report.
I wrote an imaginary letter for him to read. That letter told him that I didn’t like how he would touch my breasts in class, poke me with pencils. How uncomfortable it made me, already struggling with being labeled as “overdeveloped” by age twelve. I thought I did a pretty good job at hiding that letter until my grandmother found it. She gave it to my Dad. My Dad begged to take me to school the next morning. He wanted to talk to my teachers about it. I remember lying to my Dad about the kid’s name, learning early to protect abusers. I told my Dad that I could talk to them about it. He let it go.
First job. Only girl. He zoned in on me. Hated to be in the stock room with him because he would always try something, say something to me. “You see how hard I get…” Multiple supervisors pulling me aside, reminding me about sexual harassment policy. “You know you can report him, right?” I guess he’d done it before and no one stepped up to turn him in. They wanted to fire him, it seemed. This could get him out of there. Just a summer job, knew to tough it out. Even chose to defend him, “I said some things back to him. It wasn’t just him.” When I left, a former coworker called me. Told me my ex-supervisor harassed another girl and she filed a report. He left. Months later, told my Dad. “If he was around your age, I would have told you that that’s what boys do.”
Really liked this dude, tried my hardest to prove my worth. First night at his place. Spending the night at a man’s place for the first time in a long time. He asked me. His alarm went off that morning, his body crawling over mine to turn it off. He throws back the covers, only light I see is coming from under his bedroom door. I woke up because he rolled over me to end the excessive beeping on my right side. Before I even say a word, he pulls my legs apart. Enters. It hurts. A lot. All I remember is slamming my hand against his waist hoping he got a clue. I made excuses for him, “maybe he thought I was fighting him because it felt good, I don’t know.” I got home, kept telling myself that “dude borderline raped me”. We remained friends up until a year ago.
In an office space on the North Shore, already written about on here. I told that friend about it, same friend that arguably raped me. He threatened to come out to where I lived to “handle him.” Told him it wasn’t worth it. I met my date at work. I didn’t want to get my job involved, get him banned from the building. Only been there for a few months, didn’t want to be known as the girl who “picks up dates at work.” My assaulter came into my job one day and asked me if I “was good.” I told him, “yep.” Same friend who threatened to “handle” dude who assaulted me in his office also told me that he could sex the pain away. Show me the opposite of what I experienced that night. I told my therapist that I didn’t think that to be a normal response. She agreed. She also told me that “God was mad at what happened to me that night.” I believe her.
I learned early to believe that these things were my fault. I also learned that my comfort sat second to my reputation or report with others. I learned sex or sexual attraction as ultimately transactional. He gives you time and attention, you give him sex. I never knew any sex to consensual in theory or in practice. So when I hear conversations about consent, I always think about those who think that sex is a requirement. That they don’t have any choice or say in the matter or that the decision is already made. When you have breasts and butt by eleven, you made yourself a target. When you’re the only girl at your job, you made yourself a target. When you’re trying to impress that boy, you must do whatever it takes to prove your worth. When you go out on that date, you made sex an option. There’s no such thing as a ‘no’. Even when you think ‘no’. Even when you say ‘no’.
Although I knew those things to not be true, I still sat in silence. The people I loved made excuses. Because those around me wanted to fight the fight for me but only for their benefit. Your brain becomes your own enemy. Your empty pockets motivate you to move forward. Your desire to find love pushes you past what makes you feel used. When that kid comes back to school to visit and he doesn’t even remember your name.
To be a ghost is why I didn’t report.
To find resources to discuss sexual violence, please visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center https://www.nsvrc.org/saam. The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), organizes the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. The Hotline is a referral service that can put you in contact with your local rape crisis center. You can call the Hotline at 1–800–656–4673, or access RAINN’s online chat service.