Trigger Warning: this article discusses sexual assault and abuse and it may not be suitable for all readers. Please read with care.
I was sexually assaulted at work in my boss's office almost 10 years ago. Behind closed doors, during work hours, he pushed himself on me and found himself a permanent home in my mind.
I never reported him, and I don’t have any plans to do so now.
I try to forget his name — but who am I kidding; it sits at the tip of my tongue. I try to forget the car he drove; the way he wore his glasses low on his nose; the way he carefully groomed me to think of him as a friend.
As an impressionable young girl at her first corporate job, I was happy to be his friend. By the time he finally crossed the line into sexual assault, I had been so carefully manipulated, I didn’t even know how to react. He was someone I confided in, someone who I thought valued me as an employee and respected me as a woman.
But I was wrong.
He had already distorted my perception of myself, dragged my self-esteem through the mud, and made me forget I was a confident, strong, educated, young woman.
And for that, I’ll never forget him. But I never reported him.
For many reasons, I chose, and continue to choose, not to report him.
When I first wrote about my sexual assault, I explained why victims don’t come forward. Turn on the news; check your social media feeds. Victims receive undeserved hate around the clock. They face criticism and disbelief when telling their stories, no matter how soon or how “late” they speak up.
Some people write off claims and allegations because the victim waited so long to come forward. Sometimes they don't believe the victim simply because they have good memories of that person.
“I don’t believe it. He seemed like such a nice guy.”
Besides the self-inflicted guilt and PTSD of the trauma itself, victims also get blamed for things they should not be blamed for.
Why did they wait so long to say anything?
Why didn’t they quit their job after it happened?
Why didn’t they tell anyone? If it were true, they would’ve said something before.
But unless you yourself have faced the horrible predicament of reporting or not reporting an abuser, you simply cannot understand.
Why are people so fast to victim blame?
Is there something we haven’t uncovered here? Of course, the people who blame the victims come from a dark, broken place, but what else is going on in those minds of theirs?
Are they terrified that someone someday might come forward about them?
Is victim-blaming just a protective mechanism for those in denial? Because if they say that there is no way someone as amazing as (insert famous musician here) could be a rapist because in accepting that, they accept that other people who seem to be kind and generous might actually be capable of something like this?
It’s always easier to be in denial and deny deny deny instead of doing the hard thing and standing up and standing WITH the victims.
By blaming victims for what happened to them — victim-shamers do the devil’s work. They are literally teaching other victims never to speak up because guess what? No one will believe you anyway.
Wrong. WE BELIEVE YOU.
It is amazing and admirable and extremely brave when victims fight for justice. And still, victims are accused of being attention-whores, fame-seekers, or on a mission to ruin an innocent man’s life. They’re dismissed, they’re written off, they’re made into the guilty party for disrupting the peace — the peace of abuse behind closed doors.
It makes no sense. Yet, it happens every time a victim speaks out. And that’s the reason I never reported my former boss. And as the person who was abused by him, I feel entirely right and at peace with how I am healing from this trauma, no matter what any victim-shamers out there might think.
I didn’t report him out of fear of losing my job. I was terrified that I would get fired, that my co-workers would hate me, or that no one would believe me and I’d look like a problematic employee who was just looking for trouble.
But if you read the title of this article and thought, “If you don’t report, you are part of the problem,” I’ll say to you, I hope you’re never put in the position where you have to decide something like this. A possibly life-altering decision that could cost you your job, your financial stability, and your sanity.
How am I part of “the problem” for not reporting the man who put his hands on me without my consent?
Explain to me why you believe that if I don’t report him, I’m also to blame for the assault that happened to me.
As a victim who has experienced PTSD and anxiety, distrust and confusion, stress, and self-doubt, I have every right to heal on my own terms. Please, it’s the very least the world can give victims. Let them heal, let them recover, let them do it in peace. Stop blaming them.
The most troubling part of this healing process for me has been how the rise of #metoo has been called problematic for ruining reputations and destroying famous childhood idols.
In reality, #MeToo has been a desperately needed voice of hope for victims everywhere. It has helped so many people. #MeToo hasn’t done anything to your favorite musicians or movie stars — they did that to themselves.
And if it upsets you when a victim speaks out and ruins the image you once had of your favorite comedian, actor, or musician, please take this the wrong way when I say, you have some reevaluating to do.
I didn’t report my abuser because I was scared.
Scared of how others would see me, scared that I would lose my job, and scared that maybe, somehow, someway, it was actually my fault all along. This is what victims have to deal with; copious amounts of internal shame that follow them for a long time, sometimes for all of their lives.
But the support from other victims and allies everywhere has helped me in my healing process and I am grateful not to be on this journey alone.
I am grateful for the #MeToo movement and for the decent human beings who don’t berate victims when they find their voice and speak up for the rest of us. Because so many wish they could speak up, and they can’t, they won’t — but that doesn’t mean they’re not part of the movement.
I tell my story to give hope and comfort to anyone who may read my story and unfortunately, see themselves in my pain. You are not alone. We believe you.