TW : Rape
One of the most common question we hear when we talk about sexual violence and rape is “Why didn’t she report it immediately to the police?“. Like if it was obvious. Well, if someone hit you with a baseball bat to take your wallet you will report it. If someone punch you to steal your mobile phone you will report it. Why won’t you report it if you are raped?
Well, first of all, I am pretty sure you never ever wonder if the victim of a pickpocket had large pockets that could make it easier for the pickpocket to take the wallet.
You would never ever wonder if the victim who has been punched and stolen did not provoke the assailant by giving a call and showing he/she had a phone and just asked for being taken.
Here a short video just in case you still don’t know what I mean.
Rape is the only crime where the victims are blamed for what happened to them.
You think this is exaggerated? That we live in a society that support rapes victims and condemn rapists?
Well,let me tell you my experience. As a victim who reported a rape to the police years after it occurred I think I have a valid opinion.
I have been raped years ago by a scumbag who started by street-harass me.
This guy harassed me hours in the street, it started at 2pm, in the afternoon, in a city center full of people. That was just unbelievable. Why nobody, NOBODY!!!! intervened? I was in shock and completely lost while this scumbag acted like everything was normal. He managed to enter in my room and could do his stuff. He had a shower and dry with my own bath towel afterwards.
I was terrified. I had atrocious feelings but everything looked like normal.
I couldn’t believe it but at the same time, it was not the first time I was assaulted. It was the first time, legally speaking, I was raped but not the 1st time I was sexually assaulted. Boys in school harassed and assaulted me during 2 years to punish me to be ugly and not a single person intervened. Then a neighbour who could be my grandfather showed me his dick when I was 13 and doing my homework in my garden. Guess who was blamed for that and punished by not being allowed to go to the garden anymore? Me. Not him.
These experiences were traumatic. I was quite weakened (not weak!!! weakenED) and insecure when this scumbag street-harassed me and eventually raped me. No one intervened before. Why would someone intervene now? It was just street harassment after all. Don’t people say street harassment is harmless and that we should take it as a compliment? And don’t people say that only pretty girls get raped? Like if it was a tribute to their beauty? A compliment? Could I go to the police and tell: “Hello Police! I’ve been the victim of a compliment.” And all this after being first assaulted years at school for being ugly.
Pretty girls or whores who asked for it. How to report something you have been asking for?
May be this was normal. May be I was the problem. May be it was really my fault. Why did I felt destroyed, dirty, ashamed and guilty?
The first thing I did when he eventually left was to have a shower. For hours. Then I did what I did every day, I came back to the routine and tried to forget about it. If I thought about it, the pain was so intense that I had nausea and fainted. I couldn’t go to the police. It was too painful at that time. And for what? This happened almost in front of a crowd and nobody prevented it to happen. Even worse: a guy laughed when he saw I was trying desperately to get rid of this scumbag.
Then I remembered all this rape jokes I had heard almost everywhere at anytime. But it was harmless of course. It was “just” jokes after all. I remembered how everyone giggled when some fellow said about a new student girl she surely doesn’t get any compliment in the street because you know, she’s not really fuckable. A thousands of little comments, the words read and heard to cover rape cases, remarks, “jokes” came up in my mind. And that was so many punches.
It took 6 years for me to start to understand what really happened. 6 years to understand this was an aggression and not a compliment. Street harassment is never a compliment, even if not all the acts of street harassment end with rape. And this was rape. R.A.P.E. It is nothing to laugh about.
I met wonderful people who supported me and who helped me to understand that it was not my fault but his fault. That people who didn’t intervene were wrong.
I eventually got the courage to seek help and went to a Women’s rights organisation. Little by little, I gain more confidence, I felt valuable, I understood that I never deserved what happened, I understood that I deserved to be happy. I felt stronger. I decided to report the rape to the police. I needed it. It was essential to prove to myself that I was not the guilty one. And I did it. 6 years and a half after.
It was impossible for me to do it before. Not only because I didn’t want to but because I couldn’t. Everybody will agree if I say that you don’t expect someone suffering a leg injury that prevent him or her to walk to go walking to the hospital or any place to seek help and tell what happened. You probably won’t reproach him or her for not standing on his/her leg and you won’t doubt about him or her, right? Why can’t we understand that we can’t expect that someone in shock and who suffers trauma to go to the police immediately?
That’s yet a first answer to the question.
And then, what happened once the report made?
I didn’t had any valid physical proof. I only had my history with me, full of fear, pain, terror, bulimia, panic attacks, hate of myself and my daily fights to recover, to build a real life and the hope that 1 day I will be confident enough to push the door of a police station.
I had the support of wonderful friends and an amazing woman from a Women’s rights organisation. I was prepared for the police interview. I knew I could be asked sensitive and inappropriate questions.
I had to travel as well. I’ve been raped in France and I was living abroad. I had to organise my trip. I was a student and I couldn’t miss too many classes and I was working as well. I had to save money for the flight tickets. I spare you the details of my calls to the police, to the Embassy, to different organisations. Just be aware that the 1st time I called the police to know how I could make a report I spoke with a guy who told me “Oh. You wanna come back just for that?”
That. A Rape. Would I come back “just” for a rape. I answered : “Yes. Of course I will.”
I paid my flight tickets, I booked and paid a night in a hotel closed to the police station, I asked for some days off at job.
I was nervous when I arrived at the police station but everything went well. I spoke a bit with a policeman. He was kind and understood my situation I think. Then he introduced me to a policewoman who took my deposition. She was friendly and kind. She told me that the case was not easy. I didn’t knew (and still don’t know) the scumbag’s identity and it happened almost 7 years ago by that time. But she said she believed me. She told me not to be offended by some questions she will have to ask. Some were shocking actually. Questions about my clothes, about what I was doing alone in the street (it happened at 2PM not AM, and even-though it would have been AM it would not have been a reason to commit a crime against me. Rape is a crime.)and others disturbing questions.
The questions made me feeling bad but I was prepared and the policewoman tried to make it as soft as possible. I felt quite lucky actually. I had heard horrendous stories about how some victims had been humiliated, called liar and others names when they reported rape.
I was happy and proud and super-confident when I went out of her office. It was such a nice feeling!
It didn’t last.
I went to a women’s organisation in order to learn a bit more about legal matter. A woman welcomed me at the reception and told me someone will receive me in a few minutes. Few minutes later, a man called me in his office. He asked me what I needed and I explained my case.
He then bombarded me with irrelevant questions and comments such as :
“-Are you sure it was not a misunderstanding?
-Did you had a boyfriend at that time? No? Then did not you think he wanted to know you? Why didn’t you want speak with him?
-Do you have a boyfriend now?
-If you go to the Court you must know that you will be condemn if he is not. You know that. (that’s a law before 2010 about defamation and automatic conviction if you lose your trial even with benefit of the doubt).
You can’t decide years after that you did not like it and get revenge or make money that way. Rape is very serious you know.”
I should have replied “Yes, bastard. I know it’s serious. I’m fighting for years to get a normal life and get out of this nightmare.” but I stayed quiet. I was devastated. And numb.
He asked me if I wanted to meet with a psychologist. I said no thank you and left.
I walked a while, very fast with the sound of my heartbeat in my head.
It was hard but I had survived until then and didn’t want feel down. I went to another organisation, for victims of any kind of crime and they gave me some good information. I felt better after that.
I was about to relax a bit and meet a friend when I learned my return flight had been cancelled. I could manage to book another flight but it meant I could not see my friend when I needed her so much.
I wrote to a girl at work who was a friend and my boss. She knew what I have been doing those days off. She knew I was reporting a rape. She knew I had suffered of bulimia, bad self-esteem. She knew. She sent me a very cruel email accusing me to be absent at work, that she was disappointed I would not be here before this date when I asked her before which day I could take and everything was OK. She added she was afraid I was giving a bad image and others bad critics.
The “bad image” resonated for a while. How can someone be so cruel to say to a rape victim who just started to get her life back, after years of struggle against bad self-esteem, self-hate, bulimia that she will give a bad image? Even more when this someone knows what she has been through?
Well, she simply fired me without giving me a chance to go back to look for my stuff, my payslip, etc.
Imagine you have a broken leg and it hurts so bad that you can’t lay a toe on the floor and then after a long time you just start to feel OK to risk a toe and even 2 toes on the floor. Good feeling right? Then imagine that someone comes and hits you with an iron bar right on your broken leg.
She reopened a painful and deep wound. I remember reading her email and somehow getting the same sensation than during my rape.
She fired me like if I were the worse shit on Earth because I was giving a bad image when I was reporting a rape.
She silenced me for years. I was terrified to speak about what happened to me. I was terrified somebody at work could learn about it. She represents the real proof that victims are the one to be punished. I shouldn’t have left few days to report a rape. My absences for holidays were OK. An absence for reporting a rape: no.
The message was clear. It had a HUGE impact on my life and my recovery. It still hurts me. I got sick, I mean physically sick of fear that my job knew I’ve been raped. The impact is really really huge. And I know I am not the only one who lose a job after reporting a rape or speaking about being raped.
What were the consequences for her? None. Absolutely No CONSEQUENCE AT ALL. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. It even appears that she is doing very well. I feel only disgust towards her.
I’m pretty sure my rapist is doing well too. I am even sure he would say that was not rape, just a funny flirting game with a girl in the street, playing with her repeated “No“. For a lot of people “No” does not mean “No” but “please, try harder to catch me. “No” is a game for too many people.
I wonder if the boys who harassed and assaulted me at school remember what they did and laugh remembering such funny souvenirs.
I’m still in therapy.
So, why don’t victims report rape?
Do I regret it? Honestly I don’t know. I did it because at that time I felt I had to do it. I don’t want to regret it and I believe the most we report it the most it will be visible. A lot of surveys take in consideration the number of report. If not reported, then it is like it does not exist. So I think I did right, especially because it went well with the police and it is the point when reporting such a case. But in an other hand, what did I gain?
I have never considered reporting the others assaults mainly for 2 reasons:
– the fear nobody will believe me because you know, 2 years of assaults, insults, bullies, groping daily and with an episode of knife threatening and one episode of choking at school , then an old man in his yard, then a rape. I have also been kissed twice by surprised and groped twice if I have to count all the physical assaults I have been victim of. For many people, that is too much. And I thought as well that was a lot and it reinforced this feeling of “I have a problem. I am the problem.” But then I saw others shared their stories and I could see that we were, we are thousands suffering from more that just 1 incident. I feel, actually, quite lucky for having been raped only once. It is sickening to feel lucky for that.
-it was not, in accordance with the law, rape and prescription is different (while I am not sure about the delay when someone put a knife on your neck like did this boy at school). Moreover, I lost a lot of money, time, energy when I reported the rape. Should I spent all my free time reporting every single incident? Considering what happened at school only it would be something like 400 reports then. Or even more.
The positive is that I know who are my real friends. I am still alive and ready to speak out.