Why I didn’t report my rape (trigger warning)

// 23 April 2012

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This is a guest post by a reader who wants to remain anonymous, for reasons she explains in the post.

Two years ago I was raped for a second time. I did not know the man and I was away from home. I had multiple injuries which were documented by my doctor but I still did not feel able to report it for many reasons.

  • Because when I tried to report a previous rape, the police told me that the court wouldn’t believe me because I have mental health problems.
  • Because people say “she’s done it before” if a woman reports two rapes. The assumption is that a previous rape means she has made both of them up and she has some kind of agenda, not that she has been victimised twice.
  • Because of people like this and this.
  • Because if he had been found not guilty, or if I had lost my nerve, I might have been convicted and imprisoned myself.
  • Because the low conviction rates for rape made it feel pointless to even try.
  • Because my local Rape Crisis centre has an 6 month waiting list.

This isn’t abstract speculation, this is my reality. These are the direct causes of a rapist ‘getting away with it’. He has got away with it because every message from society tells me (and him) that I was wrong, not him.

When my GP saw my how bad my injuries were, she told me I had to report it to stop him doing it to anyone else. I hated the thought that what he went on to do was my responsibility. But more than that I knew that there was a vast chasm between me reporting it and him going to prison. There is no logical progression from one to the other.

The thought that he may have gone on to do it to other women keeps me awake at night. However every one of the above reasons meant that I could do nothing more. Even if I had, I feel sure he would still be free. On top of that, people could be naming me on Twitter, discussing in public what I was wearing, arresting me for ‘making it up’ and assuming, from my history of mental illness and repeated assaults, that this made me more likely to be lying. These things actually make people like me more likely to be revictimised.

It looks like our whole society needs to change for justice for rape victims to be the norm. Public attitudes, as much as the criminal justice system, need reforming drastically.

I didn’t report. Writing anonymously here may add to people’s suspicion about what I say, but after seeing the treatment of Ched Evans’ victim my confidence faded.

Reporting would make people blame me and suspect I had ulterior motives. Cruelly, me not reporting will make people do the same.

[“Men can stop rape” graffiti with a raised fist, by David Drexler with a Creative Commons Licence]

Comments From You

Holly Combe // Posted 23 April 2012 at 1:49 pm

It’s hard to find anything to say here that can possibly offer adequate support but this post is surely a wake-up call to anyone who thinks there isn’t a problem with rape being excused (under a veneer that it isn’t and it would be ridiculous or “hysterical” to suggest otherwise). It’s all very well to cast oneself or those close to you as somehow “not at risk” but anyone can become vulnerable for some reason at any time. What if you develop develop a mental health issue? What if you become disabled? What if events spiral beyond your control and you become homeless? What if your life experience is deemed by others to make you “fair game” in some way? It’s all very well to say you’re okay with modifying your life in whatever way you have to so you don’t fall into this category but can you guarantee control over how others see you and is that really any way for a human to live anyway?

Privilege acts as a shield and rapists count on this. If we excuse this, we potentially excuse our own future victimisation or that of someone we care about.

Shadow // Posted 23 April 2012 at 2:23 pm

Take a look at the sex of those misogynists busily posting women-hating messages on Twitter because overwhelmingly they are male and it is men who are the ones promoting our women-hating culture. Not ‘people’ but men.

Sadly this virulent male hatred/male contempt for women ensures only one thing and that is whenever a male commits sexual violence against women he not the female victim will be seen and treated as ‘the innocent person.’ This is what living in a Rape Culture and Women-Hating Culture means for women – we are blamed and held accountable for men’s actions and men’s choice in deciding to commit sexual violence against women.

The young woman who very courageously charged two prominent male footballers has been and continues to be subjected to virulent hatred and threats to her life.

It is not ‘privilege’ which allows men to commit to sexual violence against women it is the male supremacist system supported by the male supremacist legal system and that is why so many men of all classes/races etc. can commit sexual violence against women and girls with impunity. Because the legal system remains totally biased in favour of the male rapists.

Add on the fact malestream media and popular culture engages in endless propaganda that women and girls are not human but just men’s disposable sexualised commodities and we then wonder ‘why are so many males committing sexual violence against women?’ It’s not rocket science – males commit sexual violence against women because they know their chances of being prosecuted let alone convicted are zero.

What can we do to challenge this culture of male hatred and male contempt for women – well for a start name the sex of those condoning/promoting sexual violence against women and do not hide their sex under that euphemistic term ‘people.’ Unless we name sex of perpetrators and their male allies we cannot possibly begin to challenge dominant rape myths and the most common one is women are responsible for preventing men committing violence against them. Yes just as women and men injured in road accidents are supposedly to blame for not preventing the male/female driver from injuring them. Except – male supremacist society does not blame female and male road accident victims!

selina bonelli // Posted 23 April 2012 at 3:02 pm

The vast majority of sexual assault is not reported. Anonymity and the freedom to talk/write/draw etc about it is one of the most empowering tools you can give people. Thanks for the posts and ididnotreport!

Rose // Posted 23 April 2012 at 7:09 pm

Well, I believe you.

I also believe that it’s not uncommon for a woman to be raped more than once – especially when you start looking at issues such as ‘partner rape’ .

I think that it’s disturbing that it is made so hard for a woman to report a rape to the police – it makes me ashamed of society.

In your shoes, I’d have done the same as you. But I’d like to think that the next generation will have a better chance in life.

Teresa // Posted 23 April 2012 at 8:33 pm

Reporting a rape is wonderful, and brave, and I wish more people felt safe enough to do it; but it is not a moral obligation.

No matter what anyone says, the rapist is the only one responsible for his next crime.

Holly Combe // Posted 23 April 2012 at 8:57 pm

@Shadow. To clarify, the comment about privilege acting as a shield relates to people (particularly women) who haven’t been made more vulnerable in the ways listed and are therefore not experiencing a corresponding greater risk of not being believed if they are raped.

Having said that, I’d say privilege (male in this case) surely comes as part and parcel of the male supremacist system you describe and therefore most certainly does allow men to commit sexual violence.

I’d suggest the recognition that rape-condoning attitudes do not exclusively come from men is not the same as euphemistically referring to male perpetrators of sexual violence as “people”.

SophieR @sophiamaria_ // Posted 23 April 2012 at 9:41 pm

It is no wonder you wouldn’t want to report.

I feel sick after what’s happened online with this case. Maybe not surprising that lots of people have this attitude, but slightly shocking to have it there in print.

It’s not just men that have a victim-blaming attitude. Loads of women too.

How how how can this culture be challenged and changed? I feel a bit hopeless about it at the moment.

Clodia // Posted 23 April 2012 at 11:02 pm

I totally sympathise. If you report rape or any other form of harassment by a male, the whole police and Justice system is inherently patriarchal and will assume the woman is at fault whatever, especially if she is vulnerable in any way. The justice system is set up to make it as difficult as possible for a woman’s word to be believed against a man’s, in all sorts of circumstances not just rape.

I have never been raped, but reporting serious harassment for my lifestyle and beliefs by a male neighbour to the police, and being virtually criminalised for doing so, because he lied, suddenly made me understand why some women do not report rape, and I told the police so too.

rose411 // Posted 24 April 2012 at 12:52 am

I believe you too. I think you are really brave for sharing your story on here, good for you.

As for all the haters on social networks, etc, fuck them!!!(swearing used for the benefit of female empowerment).

whether you report it or not, that is up to you to do in your own time and thought. hopefully in majority, there are police officers who will help you and not blame you as it is their job to help the public and stop crime. Just remember that it is wrong and you didn’t deserve it.

You know the truth, so don’t let anyone bring you down.

lil1 // Posted 24 April 2012 at 2:22 am

“If you report rape or any other form of harassment by a male, the whole police and Justice system is inherently patriarchal and will assume the woman is at fault whatever, especially if she is vulnerable in any way. The justice system is set up to make it as difficult as possible for a woman’s word to be believed against a man’s, in all sorts of circumstances not just rape.”

Yes. Absolutely.

One example: my brother was routinely violent growing up, and into adulthood.

I turned a very loud TV down,was without warning repeatedly kicked and punched in the face and legs into the sofa – he is very overweight and wore heavy boots (I was barefoot). I decided after a history of abusive instances, one day to do the ‘right thing’, get to the phone and let the police deal with him.

One of two male officers decided I was just “just trying to get back at my boyfriend” (despite REPEATEDLY being told brother) and dismissed my obvious distress/heavy bruising at the time, casually chatting about the football.

My parents also shooed them away with the claim I was autistic (I’m not of course) with the later excuse that she “didn’t want strangers breaking up the family”.

In hindsight I should have gone in the following day, showed the bruises showing up on my legs and issued a complaint to the Police Complaints Commision. The family’s scathing response and ostracism made it that much more difficult to do.

lil1 // Posted 24 April 2012 at 12:23 pm

I would like to add that I can only imagine how much more amplified the sense of helplessness and frustration must be for the author of this post. Just you knowing the truth gives you power that no failing system can take away, so thank you for speaking up.

Grant // Posted 24 April 2012 at 1:16 pm

I’m sorry.

No one should be raped.

I’m just sorry.

Laura // Posted 24 April 2012 at 2:01 pm

I believe you.

Tony // Posted 24 April 2012 at 8:09 pm

I normally wouldn’t register here but felt the need to say:

I am sorry – for the whole miserable system, and especially for those of my gender who’ve made you feel the way you do.

And I believe you!

Glosswitch // Posted 25 April 2012 at 9:51 pm

I am so sorry this happened to you and believe you. You have made a difference by writing this post because it’s so powerful.

Mr. Rude Word // Posted 26 April 2012 at 2:22 am

It seems that whenever a professional footballer is involved in a rape case, the general concensus is “what did she expect?”, rather than “what was he thinking?”. The popular perception of women who involve themselves with footballers comes before them. Whether they are victims of rape by a footballer or happily married to a footballer, it is the status of the footballer that colours society’s view of the women they associate with.

As a male, I take issue with the “men can stop rape” argument…it suggests that being male and the act of rape are mutually exclusive. They are not. If they were, preventing rape would be as simple as the “men can stop rape” statement suggests. The offensive tweets are not exclusively male, the “what did she expect?” arguments are never exclusively male, the rape discussion is never exclusively male. The culture of professional footballers, the culture of the predominantly male, predominantly stupid police force of Britain is not MY culture…it is not how I think, feel or behave & I am male.

I understand why a patriarchal structure, a culture that favours the male, is given as reasoning as to why rape is treated the way it is, but being male…the accident of birth that bestows gender upon you…is not the same as being a male who rapes, who disbelieves rape victims, who excuses rape & who does not empathise with victis of rape. When presented with this complex issue, please remember that men are your allies too…they have to be. The alternative is to imagine that all men think like the rapist and his excusers.

Holly Combe // Posted 26 April 2012 at 1:23 pm

I agree that being a man is not the same as being a man who rapes or who excuses it. However, I think recognising privilege and not taking it as a personal insult when the influence of this on your potential power over others (even though you didn’t ask for it) is an important part of being an ally.

Getting angry about a patriarchal system that favours men who rape in certain approved circumstances is not the same as imagining that all men think like the rapist and his excusers. However, rapist-sympathising (albeit in an often complex and subtle fashion) is really not that unusual is it? So is it not understandable if people want to expose that, particularly when it comes from members of the group being enabled to rape? Surely, feeling a little attacked when one is in a group with this disproportionate amount of power is all the more reason to get angry at the abusers who created such a shitty and untrusting state of affairs in the first place?

Laura // Posted 26 April 2012 at 1:43 pm

I addition to what Holly said: for me the phrase “men can stop rape” isn’t just saying that men shouldn’t rape (because clearly all men aren’t rapists), but that men need to step up and challenge rape culture. This means challenging other men when they engage in rape apologism, make rape jokes, blame victims, perpetuate myths about rape and behave in sexist or abusive ways towards women. Complaining that the phrase “men can stop rape” makes you feel picked on isn’t helping.

Mr. Rude Word // Posted 27 April 2012 at 12:53 am

“Complaining that the phrase “men can stop rape” makes you feel picked on isn’t helping.”

It wasn’t a complaint, it was a plea for balance and “picked on” is a rather dismissive and condescending way of describing how you’ve chosen to view my concerns.

It’s not important how the phrase makes me or any other male feel personally, what’s important is that being male of and in itself is not confused with acts perpetrated by certain members of the male gender, not for the good of males, but for the good of society itself. Rape should not be promoted as an “us vs them” issue…it suggests that society is constructed of male perpetrators and female victims. There’s a concern discrepancy explicit in “men can stop rape” that is absent in the phrase “we can stop rape”. A belief in male privilege seems to be the over riding concern here.

Holly Combe // Posted 27 April 2012 at 12:05 pm

“…what’s important is that being male of and in itself is not confused with acts perpetrated by certain members of the male gender, not for the good of males, but for the good of society itself.”

I don’t think we’ve done that. Indeed, I agree such conflation would be essentialist and unhelpful. But short of peppering every paragraph with the truth that “Of course, most men are not rapists”, I’m not sure what people addressing the issue this post brings up are supposed to do. The point of the post was that 1) a woman was raped by man, 2) she was led not to report it and 3) this is a situation that is sadly all-too-common. Would glossing over certain facts of the situation and others like it really be for “the good of society itself”?

“Rape should not be promoted as an “us vs them” issue… it suggests that society is constructed of male perpetrators and female victims.”

Most feminists wouldn’t actually reduce the whole of society itself in this way (too simplistic) but the majority of perpetrators of rape are male and many of us are indeed arguing that male privilege plays a part in this. If I didn’t believe this, I would be inclined to agree that drawing attention to most rapists being male would be unhelpful but, yes, tackling male privilege is a concern of mine so I don’t.

In the context of this post [EDIT: there are, of course, questions about rehabilitation that require less stark framings but would constitute a derail here], I’d say there’s an argument that “us vs them” is not always a bad way to approach the issue: “us” being those of us who don’t rape and refuse to excuse it under any circumstances (presumably including you) and “them” being rapists and those who excuse them.

Let’s keep this thread on-topic now please.

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