This month is sexual assault awareness month and as such, we’re going to be talking about some of the hard subjects. Talking about sexual assault on its own can be hard, but it’s important. Why is it important? So that other people are aware, can understand, and know that they are not alone. For me, speaking out and educating on these topics is very emotionally straining sometimes, but I do feel that it is better for me to be uncomfortable than to not do it at all.
The topic that I want to talk about is a difficult one and that is on the subject of reporting. What do I mean by reporting? Well, in most cases, reporting would involve some type of official report to police, law enforcement, or some other type of organization which deals with crimes. Sometimes, reporting may involve talking to a person or board at your college who handled sexual assault or violence on campus. In other cases, reporting may mean you talk to someone at your high school, a faculty member, or any type of authority figure who is trusted to take action.
For people who have not been sexually assaulted or who have not been through a traumatic event, it seems like common sense that you should file an official report. They may even act incredulous that you would think about not reporting. For the most part, these people are well intentioned. They are simply trying to help and think that the person or group who is most likely to help you is the police/someone in a position of authority.
It seems strange to us that these people would have such a huge misconception, what with the stories all over the internet, television shows, movies, and documentaries that are out there. It seems like almost every day that I read a new story about victim blaming, a convicted sex offender getting off early, or someone being assaulted and there being no justice. This is in regards to people who have reported and those who
Let’s delve further into this. Why do people who have never gone through reporting have a misconception that reporting is helpful? The first thing that the average person says after you disclose should be, “Are you okay? Do you need anything?” But most often it’s, “You need to contact the police.” or “Did you contact the police?”
They want to help you. They don’t know that the police will ask you what you were wearing, how much you had to drink, and if you knew the person who assaulted you. They won’t know how traumatic it will be to tell the story over and over again, to various individuals at the hospital, to the police, to anyone who’s involved in the reporting process. They won’t know what it’s like to go through a rape kit, to have to cry in front of strangers, to feel numb, or to know that nothing will be done unless you go through the legal process.
When you go to the Emergency Room, there will be a whole lot of questions and a whole lot of waiting. You do not have to make an official police report, but if you want the results of your rape kit, you will be required to do so. Every step of the way, you have the right to put a stop to things or continue on.
Ultimately, reporting in any fashion will bring about a lot of hard emotions. Regardless of whether you stop after the first step or carry through to a courtroom where you face the person, you will have to tell your story a number of times and likely have to go through some difficult memories. This can be re-traumatizing, especially if you are questioned.
Ultimately, the decision to report or not report is up to you. You should know what you’re getting yourself into and decide whether it’s important to you to try to fight the legal system to pursue justice. Know that there will be a lot of questions, a lot of pressure, and no guaranteed results. But if you feel strongly about reporting and about seeking justice, that is your call to make.