The first time it happened that I can remember, I was three years old. Three. That alone ought to be reason enough as to why I didn’t report my sexual assault. Like many in the same situation as me, I did not have the kind of parents whom I could report things to. I did not have the vocabulary or the know-how to report to anyone else. When the people who are supposed to protect you are the perpetrators of abuse, there is little to no chance for justice.
The next time it happened, I was seven. At the time I believed I would be the one who would get in trouble if I spoke up. I was correct. I had already been trained to accept responsibility for the abuse. I believed it was my fault, even though my abuser was many years older than me. I thought (correctly) that I would be blamed for the inevitable fallout and loss of friendship that it would cause my parents. The abuse went on for five years. Many years later, when I did speak up, my mother casually told me she had suspected it all along. She had done nothing about it.
The next time it happened, I was fourteen. I was raped, but it took almost thirty years for me to be able to use the correct words to describe what happened. It happened in a place I wasn’t supposed to be, so again, I took the blame. At the time, I knew of no other way to frame it. All through my childhood and adolescence, I was told, directly and indirectly, that women and girls “ask for it” based on what they wear, how much makeup they have on, or the company they keep. Given my history, I naturally assumed responsibility.
The other times it happened, I was older, wiser, and much more tuned in to how I “ought to” behave. Like most women, I constantly looked over my shoulder in dark alleys and clenched my keys into my fist in parking lots. I made sure I never dressed the part, or gave any impressions. None of that mattered. I was still harassed, cornered, and groped.
In my case, there was no trusted person to turn to. There was no opportunity for redemption, only condemnation. I would not have been believed, anyway. Speaking up would have created unbearable drama in my home situation, and I had no where else to go.
I can’t speak for other women as to why they didn’t report, but I can tell you that if I risked getting death threats, I wouldn’t do it. I already have complex PTSD from the circumstances of my shitty childhood. I don’t think my mental health could withstand the scrutiny and accusation that goes along with speaking the truth about a public figure.
I do know from my education and training, and experience that the risk of someone being falsely accused of assault is miniscule compared to the thousands of people who are falsely accused of lying about it. If someone says they were assaulted, do everyone a favor and believe them.