From a Facebook post by Pittsburg State University Social Work Program
I was 18. I went to a party at a local park. The guy I was crushing on was there. I wore a pretty dress. I brought booze. I came on to him. People saw us leave together.
I didn’t report what happened next because I didn’t understand conditional consent. I didn’t report it because I knew no one would believe me. I knew my friends wouldn’t believe me, much less the rest of the community. I didn’t report because I was ashamed. I didn’t report it because I knew I’d be judged for my choices in what I wore and for supplying alcohol. I didn’t know date rape was a thing. I knew I hadn’t wanted what had happened to me, but I wasn’t sure if rape was the word for it.
The fallout from that assault has affected my sexual relations to this day.
I still blame myself for it even though I know if it had happened to anyone else I would tell them it wasn’t their fault.
I didn’t report it because I knew how badly it would go for me if I did.
The Washington Post ran a story about a girl who did exactly what she was supposed to do. She reported it. And she lived every woman’s nightmare in response:
When I planned this post, I was going to discuss writing about rape. I was going to use a screen shot from the Game of Thrones scene of Sansa Stark’s rape and contrast it with a very similar shot of Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett’s rape from Orange is the New Black. I was going to point out how the shot stayed on Pennsatucky but in GoT, it panned away from the woman being raped to show how a man reacted to it. I was going to say, “Don’t do that. A rape story should be about the person who survived the rape.”
That was before Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Now, like a lot of women, I find myself reliving not just a thing that happened to me, but the thoughts and turmoil that followed.
Who do I tell?
(Oh, God, no one!)
How do I act?
(Normal! Just act normal!)
What if my parents find out?
(They’ll blame me and think I’m lying!)
What do I tell my friends?
(They think you just want attention. Pretend everything’s fine.)
Do I talk to the cops?
(They won’t even believe there was a crime!)
…Was it my fault?
(…it might have been.)
This blog is supposed to be about writing the hard stories. So, if you are writing about sexual assault, two things:
1. Your story had better, by God, be about the woman who got raped and not about how it affected her husband, brother, father, son, or some other man. Not to say they can’t have an arc, too, but if you’re going to include the rape of a woman in your story, it needs to be her story.
2. Most reasons why a woman doesn’t report a rape right away fall into a few categories:
a. She doesn’t want to relive it
b. She doesn’t want to be seen as a victim
c. She fears she won’t be believed
d. She fears she’ll be blamed
e. She fears she’ll be treated like so many other women who have come forward and shamed.
Rape is complex, and it feels shameful. There are as many reasons why a woman wouldn’t report as there are women who’ve been assaulted. And it’s almost never because she just made it up.
Donna A. Leahey
As a child in school, Donna Leahey turned her vocabulary homework into short stories. Years later, she is still crafting stories. Geek, gamer, writer, mother, procrastinator, and pet lover, Donna is a practicing veterinarian and free-lance writer as well as an active creator of podcasts. You can hear her and her friends on Beyond the Cabin in the Woods: A Good Ghouls Guide to Horror, Collective Snark, and Once More With Feeling: A 20th Anniversary Buffy Fancast as well as her 4th podcast, The Family Business: A Supernatural Fancast. You can follow her on Twitter.