There are a lot of reasons why a woman may not report when she has been sexually assaulted. It does not go without notice that most of these reasons would be completely misunderstood by most men, but totally reasonable to a woman.
If you are a man, you should understand that a lot of the women you know have been sexually assaulted in some way, form or fashion—many of them more than once.
I have been sexually assaulted more than once. Here is a list of the reasons I did not say anything:
I was very young, and my earliest memories of it happening are from around the time I was 3 years old. I remember that he made it into a game, and somehow my little mind translated that into me being complicit as well. He ended every session (it happened repeatedly over a number of years) with “Don’t tell nobody,” and I thought that if I told, I would be in trouble too, so I never said anything at all.
My uncle was married to a woman who had four children of her own—three daughters and a son. Her son was my age, and because they lived down the street from my grandmother, I spent a lot of time at their house hanging with him and my uncle’s two daughters.
One afternoon, I went down there looking for everyone, and he and his baby sister were the only ones in the house. He said everyone else had gone to Kmart, but they would be back soon, so I figured I would wait there for them to get back.
As I was sitting there, he suddenly came over to me and told me that if I wanted to sit in his room and wait, this was “the pussy room” and I would have to give him some pussy. I immediately got up from where I was sitting and tried to leave, but he blocked my way and pushed me down on his bed.
He then attempted to restrain me and lift my skirt up. I fought him as hard as I could and screamed for him to stop even though no one else was in the house but his baby sister.
It was his baby sister that saved me because she came running into the room and looked at us to see what was going on. He got off of me, and I started to leave the house to go back to my grandmother’s.
As I opened the front door, his mother and two other sisters were coming up the driveway. His oldest sister took one look at me and said, “Monique, what were you doing in the house alone with my brother? Ooh girl, what’s up with you and my brother?!”
Embarrassed, I said nothing and just went to my grandmother’s house. I never told anyone what happened until I just wrote this out right now.
When I was 17 years old, I awoke one night at my grandmother’s house to find one of my uncles on top of me, rubbing his penis across my bare ass. He had pulled my pants down in my sleep. I jumped up and ran out of the room, and I heard him saying “Monique, I’m sorry” as I hit the door.
I told my grandmother, and she told me that a man is the first cousin to a dog, and a hard dick doesn’t have a conscience. Then she promptly made me leave her house and dropped me off at the home of a family friend.
I later told my mother what happened, but she too did nothing. The only person who openly spoke out about it was my Auntie Harriet (RIP), but no one listened to her either.
To this very day, I don’t speak to either of the two uncles who put their hands on me.
Six years ago, a friend threw a huge party at her house where I consumed lots of alcohol. So much so that I eventually got the spins and had to lie down. I thought I was going to either pass out or throw up. It was that bad.
As I was lying on her couch, a mutual male friend of ours came over and sat next to me. He started touching me, and in my weakened state, I kept asking him to stop. He managed to wrestle his hand under the waistband of my jeans and into my pants. He fingered me until I came.
And because discussions about rape culture were not as commonplace as they are now, I thought my body responding in a natural way was somehow a sign that I was complicit in what happened, so again, I said nothing.
Writing this now is only the fourth time I have ever mentioned it since it happened.
We blame ourselves. We think somehow we played a part in what happened.
Or we do tell people we think can help us, but they fail us. It discourages us from telling anyone else.
We get discouraged from reporting because rape culture starts in the home, and it is an insidious infection that rots families from the inside out with secrets.
Look at every woman you know in your life. It is highly likely that one or more of them has been sexually assaulted.
Have you made it more difficult for her to talk about it?