#Why They Didn't Tell by Pamela Brewer

Monday, September 24, 2018
There are many truths about sexual assault.  All of them unpleasant.  

One thing is certain - to blame an alleged victim for not coming forward to report an attempted or completed assault whether it occurred yesterday, today or tomorrow is cruel, unknowing, hurtful, and simply adds to pain and the trauma.  It is often more difficult for the victim of an attempted assault to report to anyone.  To attempt to besmirch parents, friends or anyone else for not knowing or not insisting that a report be made, is also cruel, unknowing, and hurtful. To infer that nothing must've happened because a report wasn't made - is sheer nonsense, often propelled by sheer ignorance. 

So here are some things to consider if you have been the victim of an attempted or completed assault or if you know someone who has:

When someone is the victim of an attempted or completed assault there is a change in their entire sense of themselves and the world around them. Everything is forever different. People can heal over time - but still, their lives are forever changed.  People can heal, survive and thrive.  But that memory, that crime, that changed sense of self lingers.

There are a myriad of responses one can often experience after an assault or an attempted assault. Confusion. Shock. At some point a growing awareness that her or his life was actually in jeopardy. A change in how one thinks about themselves and their own body, in their own world. And questions. So many questions. How could this happen? Why me? If the assailant is known (which is usually the case), why did this person do this to me? I never thought he or she would do this! How do I know I'm safe? Can I ever feel safe again? An emotional shiver goes through the mind, body, spirit, the very essence of the individual.  And it moves through in waves.  Often triggered by what may seem like the most minute of triggers.  Triggers can come today, tomorrow and years hence.  

One of the remaining truths is that a victim is often blamed and shamed if they report and if they don't.  Parents may not know about the assault, may know and counsel their loved ones not to tell - for a number of reasons.  Victims/survivors of assault may fear another attack, may fear being killed the next time, may fear being ostracized for reporting, may fear retaliation by the assailant's friends/colleagues/family. That's a long enough list of fears don't you think?  But wait ... there's more. 

There are many questions that will routinely float into the victim's awareness. 

"Should I go to a doctor?  Will anyone find out?  What happens if a report is made?  Will the police believe me? How will I be treated by the justice system? What happens if I report? What happens if I don't? Do I have to report?  Will I have to see my assailant again? I am so frightened. I am so confused. What will my friends say? What about my co-workers? My teachers? What about my friends? My parents? My significant other? My children? And on...and on. 

When a victim comes forward - we owe them a debt of gratitude--- perhaps if enough people come forward --- this crime will end.  When a victim comes forward - feeling like a victim - we must acknowledge that - but also point out and celebrate their survival. Their bravery.  Whatever they did/didn't do in response to the assault helped to save their life.  

And when a victim/survivor is put on trial - whether by the media, social networks, the judicial system, the legal networks  - or themselves... we, as caring, responsible, thoughtful humans must stand up and stand out and support them... for theirs is a hard story to tell, a chilling experience to survive and a powerful reminder of the courage of the human spirit ... NO MATTER what/how they respond, what/when/if they speak. 

If you would like to talk to someone about your experience - The National Sexual Assault Hotline is : 1-800-656-4673

If you would like to comment - Pamela@MyNDTALK.org or DRPBrewer@gmail.com