Victims of sexual assault and rape are the bravest. We are the ones who keep our heads high in public places, and only let our tears fall in our safe places. We are the ones whose bodies have been dirtied and mistreated. We are the ones who were unfortunately treated like objects, rather than living, beautiful beings.
And now, we are in a moment where times are evolving from the victims fearlessly coming together on #MeToo to bring their voices public, to a newer, evolved #WhyIDidntReport of those of us who were quiet. Because before, we may have been scared. We may have been worried that perhaps social media wasn’t the best place to come public, when we’d rather stick to our safe havens and therapists. #WhyIDidntReport is everyone whose hearts were broken, perhaps too broken that we became afraid to come forward. We wondered if it was our fault. Or if others would reduce our reports to ask us why we didn’t do anything sooner, or if we shouldn’t have gone to that party in the first place.
I didn’t report, because I was afraid that it was my fault. I shouldn’t have drank so much at the party, that I blacked out and passed out in the car ride home. I shouldn’t have drank so much, otherwise, I would have realized that when I walked back from the car, he followed me into my dorm silently. I shouldn’t have been so drunk that I didn’t feel him crawl into my bed with me when I fell atop it and passed out again. I woke up to tugging on my pants, and it was him tugging on my zipper, It was stuck. I told him no, and I fell back to sleep. The next morning, he was still sleeping at the bottom of my bed. I made sure all of my clothes were still on, and breathed a sigh of relief that nothing probably happened. I woke up to dark blotches on my neck from his attempts, and my pants still stuck at the zipper. I told myself that I was lucky that the zipper was stuck, and that some concealer would do the trick on my neck. I drove him home. I told my friends, and they said I shouldn’t have drank so much, and that all he had was a harmless crush on me. That at least we didn’t hook up, and that technically, nothing really happened. I didn’t want to tell anyone else, because I was afraid that if I pushed further, I would lose these friends. I avoided his fraternity’s parties afterwards. I avoided him until one day, his name popped up on my phone screen with a text message. “Hey, sorry for that night. I was drunk.” I said, “It’s okay.” Even though I wasn’t okay. Because I was afraid of going to parties and drinking too much, and I was afraid of being touched.
I thought that I was still afraid, until I clicked on the hashtag. I read other accounts of victims. I cried with the ones who were like me, who previously blamed and shamed themselves. This is the social media movement that helps all of us, the quiet victims, realize that we have a whole community with whom we can share our tears and our stories. This is the movement in which we bring forward the global crisis of victims who felt too ashamed before, or too scared to come forward.
#WhyIDidntReport is all of us deciding to say “no” to our fear and stand up. It is us, putting aside our shame, and the difficulties that we are afraid of. It is us realizing that time changes nothing. We may have grown, but we still know that darkness that sits at the back of our minds. It is us, bringing everything to the light. It’s us not allowing our narratives to be reduced by others who condone it, because we lean on each other’s shoulders. We keep a hand under each other’s chins to keep our heads held high. We hold each other’s hands when they are shaking, and make our presence known.
#WhyIDidntReport is all of us holding hands and telling each other, “It’s okay to be scared, but we are here together, we are here for each other, and we will be each other’s voices when yours is a whisper.”