One of the biggest questions I’ve had since starting this project is, “Why don’t women tell that they’ve been raped?” This made me think about the big picture, ask other women why they stayed silent, and think about why I didn’t tell anyone for fourteen years.
Right off the bat, I knew I couldn’t tell anyone. (To read Part 1 of this series, click here: Tell, Part 1) There were so many reasons… At first, it was all about shame. I was horribly ashamed that I put myself in that situation, especially with a guy who worked in our warehouse. I had dated a few coworkers previous to that, and one lied and said I’d slept with him, which I had not. The guys were already talking about me, and the last thing I needed was to be the Company Slut. Also, I had had a very rough past, and I went through a time in my life when I trolled bars and behaved in ways that I’m still incredibly ashamed of. I KNEW that if I tried to press charges, his lawyer would’ve splashed my past all over the court room and media. That wasn’t an option. I just couldn’t.
What haunts me more is that I didn’t scream and I didn’t fight harder. I was so intoxicated that I couldn’t really fight, and I didn’t really know what was happening. But I was in the party-host’s living room while he and his wife were asleep in their bedroom. So why didn’t I scream? I just kept saying no, no, don’t, and when I started getting loud and crying, he stopped, but tried again, and the cycle repeated itself. My only way to get away from him was to leave and drive, and as drunk as I was, I did. I’ll never forgive myself for not screaming or fighting harder.
But even after, it got worse…
The party-host, who we’ll call “J”, had been taking video of the party, of people dancing and drinking, as well as drunk testimonials to the camera. At work, a week or so after the party, he told me that he had topless footage of me on video. I argued and said no, I didn’t do that, and I still don’t remember letting him take video of me, but he swore he had it, and I’d better be nice to him, or he’d show everyone. Even though I didn’t recall taking such video, I couldn’t risk it. I couldn’t risk that he did have such footage, so I did what he said when he said. He never asked for sex from me, just to cover for him at work sometimes, let him talk to me however he wanted, sexually harass me, or anything else. I believe the technical term for the situation was: Royally Screwed.
J told all the warehouse guys and drivers that he had topless footage of me, and they would taunt me about it, saying they can’t wait to see it. Then the warehouse manager started asking me for sex. I couldn’t go to my boss, the President, about this. The last girl who had come forward regarding the warehouse manager sexually harassing her was threatened with losing her job and the whole thing was covered up. The girl before her who had come forward about the warehouse manager went through with filing sexual harassment charges, and was promptly fired, and the whole thing disappeared. She never worked in that industry again.
Even years later, after the company changed hands, this mysterious topless video still haunted me. J now worked in customer service with me. He and another guy in the department were constantly sexually harassing me, saying nasty things, making comments about my body, etc. When I’d talk back to him, try to shut him up or tell him off, he’d say, “You better be nice to me. Remember… I have that topless video of you. I’ll show it to everyone.” After Mark and I got married, he saw that I was coming home from work every day and sobbing for at least an hour, and he made me quit. He still didn’t know about the sexual attack, the blackmail, or the extent of the sexual harassment that was happening in the office. Although I’d told him about the rape in 2011, I didn’t tell him the whole story until two weeks ago.
So why don’t women tell that they’ve been raped? Because of the shame, the feeling that it was their fault, the fear that their attacker will ruin their reputation, the fear of losing their job. Worse, I talked to a woman who feared for her life. If she had told, the ex-con who’d raped her would kill her and her children.
Then there’s the ridiculous “justice” system. Most women go home and shower/bathe after a rape because they’re traumatized, and that shoots their case in the face. Unless there’s physical damage and semen present, there’s nothing that can be done. And if there IS such physical evidence, the rapist usually claims that the sex was consensual, and the rapist’s lawyer makes the victim look like a whore, telling every dirty little secret they can find, parading ex-lovers through the trial. For me personally, it wasn’t worth it because there wasn’t physical evidence that I could use to prove it was rape.
However, I’m a stronger woman now. If I were to be sexually attacked now, I would ABSOLUTELY press charges. I would make sure to scratch the attacker to get his skin under my fingernails, I would fight as hard as I could, and I’d go right to the hospital for a rape kit. I don’t care what happened in my past any more. I would NOT stay silent. Not now. Not after the hell I’ve been through.