Why women don’t report

There have been a lot of conversations around sexual assault and violence against women this week, ever since allegations against Jian Gomeshi began coming to light on Sunday.

The stat is that 1 in 3 women will be sexually harassed in their lifetime. Two of those women won’t report the harassment. For the ones that do, it’s an uphill battle.

I reported what happened to me, but felt less like a victim and more like the guilty party, so I walked away from pressing charges.

It was the fall of 2000. Around this time of year. I don’t remember the exact day, but remember the events of that evening as if they just happened.

I met a guy in a night class I was taking. I was 18. We flirted throughout the class that night. He invited me to come home with him for a drink.

We left the school together and began the 20 minute walk to his house.

Five minutes after we left the school, he realized he left something behind and went back for it. I waited for him in the townhouse complex we had arrived it. While I waited for him, I called my mom and  lied about my plans, telling her I was going out with my best friend for a bit.

I had this weird funny feeling as I continued to wait. There was something that didn’t feel right. I even remember hearing a little voice that suggested I should abandon the guy and go home, as my house wasn’t that far.

But I didn’t.

We got to his house, and things got very physical very fast. I don’t remember ever saying I wanted to have sex, but I don’t think it mattered. He was rough. He hit me hard. I asked him to stop.

“What are you going to do? Scream?” He asked me after I asked him to stop. “No one’s home upstairs. No one will hear you.”

So instead I went silent and just waited for it to be over. When it was, he threw my clothes at me and told me to get the hell out.

I ran down the street, and when I thought I was far enough away, I called my best friend to come get me. I told her what happened. She brought me back to her boyfriend’s dorm room where I showered until my skin was red and raw, even though I knew it was something I shouldn’t do.

My friend urged me to report, but I didn’t want to because then I’d have to tell my parents. She dropped me off at home.

I remember walking into my house and my stepdad was watching the World Series. I sat down on the ground next to where he laid on the couch.

“What’s up kid?” he asked.

I said I had a rough night, and then I started to cry. I got hysterical, and between sobs told him what had happened. He said we had to go wake my mother, even though I pleaded I didn’t want her to know.

But we told her. And I’ll never forget what she said to me.

“You went home with someone you didn’t know? What were you thinking? You asked for it,” she said as she dialled the number for the police.

I told my story when the cops arrived as they questioned me. When it was time for me to go to the hospital to be examined, my mother went back to bed. She had to work in the morning. I went to the hospital alone. I stripped out of my clothes on paper clothes, alone. I laid on a table cold and alone while a rape kit was performed on me and doctors tried to find evidence.

I came home at 4:30 a.m. and barely slept.

I met with the cops three more times in the next 10 days. But the questioning was exhausting. Every cop I talked to made me feel like I was in the wrong because I didn’t even know my rapist’s name.

After the third meeting, I told them I didn’t want to go through with pressing charges any more. They said they could proceed without me, if they felt there was a case. They said I could get my clothes back from evidence in 45 days.

To this day, I don’t know if the man who raped me ever raped someone else. I don’t know if he was ever charged, or not. I know I sometimes worry that because I didn’t follow through on charges that I may have caused another woman to get hurt, and that’s really hard for me to be OK with me.

I hope that if there’s some good to come out of sharing my story and experience it’s that the silence so many women feel forced into will be lifted. By sharing our stories, we might be able to enact change whereby victims don’t feel like the guilty ones.

  • Bill Doskoch

    I’m sorry to hear you went through this, Sarah. :(

  • newsjunkie365

    I literally audibly gasped when reading what your mother said to you. I’m so, so sorry. It was absolutely not your fault. Thank you for your bravery in sharing this.