I am the victim of a sexual assault. This may come as a surprise to many of you, but I didn’t report it to the police. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t tell anyone for over five years. Not one single person.
I actually didn’t even know what happened to me was sexual assault. I knew it was embarrassing and disgusting and not okay, but I didn’t realize it was illegal.
I Blamed Myself For My Sexual Assault
The number one reason I didn’t tell anyone was because I blamed myself. (You can read about my experience here.) I blamed myself for drinking too much. I blamed myself for passing out. I blamed myself for not being able to defend myself. I felt like I had failed myself.
Believe it or not, I was a police officer for two years before I finally realized what happened to me was illegal. It wasn’t until I truly understood the definition of sexual assault that I finally realized I was a victim. That realization started the healing process for me, but it would still be years before I truly felt like I had overcome the event.
Even after that realization, I still chose not to say anything to anyone. Not only was I still blaming myself, but now I was embarrassed for new reasons.
The label ‘victim’ embarrassed me. I convinced myself being a victim made me unworthy of being a police officer. I believed my coworkers would find me less capable to do my job. I doubted my abilities to help other people when I hadn’t been able to help myself. (It didn’t help that at the time of this realization, I was also in an abusive relationship.)
I was ashamed at the idea of being a victim, but I was also ashamed that I had done nothing about it. I felt the fact that I didn’t report my assault was a discredit to my profession. I did nothing to bring my assaulter to justice and I was ashamed.
I also felt shame associated with my relationship to my assaulter. We had been dating, and I hadn’t immediately broken up with him. In fact, I continued dating him for almost a year after the assault. I blamed myself instead of him. After that night, I started having a hard time being intimate with him. I blamed myself for that as well. I assumed everything was my fault. This put a strain on our relationship and that’s why we eventually broke up.
I was ashamed because I failed to realize I ‘d been assaulted, failed to bring my assaulter to justice AND I hadn’t even broken up with him right away.
I Didn’t Feel Worthy
The term victim embarrassed me, but I also didn’t feel worthy of it. I didn’t even known I’d been assaulted. How could I claim to be a victim? Real victims had bruises and scars and had suffered through violent encounters. Surely, they are more deserving of the title and sympathies than I am.
Then one night, I was interviewing a young woman. She was the victim of a sexual assault. The details of her assault were similar to my own. As we talked, she voiced similar concerns, stating that she didn’t feel worthy of wasting the time of a police officer with her insignificant assault.
Immediately, I refuted her comments. I didn’t want her to feel like she wasn’t worthy of my time. I wanted her to know what happened to her was awful and she didn’t deserve it. As I said these things to her, I suddenly realized that they applied to me too. For the first time, I looked at my own assault from the point of view of a police officer.
It’s been almost a decade. In that time I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about the law and the legal system. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’ve learned a lot about the healing process.
If I could take all that knowledge back with me, I think I would have handled my assault a little differently, although I’ll never know. What I do know is that I’m speaking out now. I’m no longer suffering in silence. It may not bring my assaulter to justice, but it might empower someone else to get justice for themselves.
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