(Image credit: Women's eNews)

Why I’m glad I reported my sexual assault

The numbers on sexual violence haven’t gone down over the years, not even a little bit. In fact, they’ve increased. One in five women will be sexually assaulted within her lifetime. That’s a lot. In 2002, there were 2,348 incidences of what the Department of Education calls “forcible sex offenses” on college campuses. That number has steadily gone up, hitting 3,944 in 2012. That’s a sixty-eight percent increase over ten years. College enrollment during that same time period also increased, but not nearly enough to explain the rise in sexual assault.

It gets worse. These numbers only deal with known instances of sexual assault. As many as forty-two percent of women who get raped and sexual assault may never tell anyone about it, not even friends or family. The vast majority—ninety-five percent—don’t report it to the police, leaving these crimes mostly uninvestigated and unpunished.

take rape seriously sign

(Image credit: Women’s eNews)

I understand why only 5% of victims go to the cops.  The ones who do have called their experience “a second rape” and I’d agree with them.  I called the police when I arrived back at a party after getting sexually assaulted when I left with a strange man. I was still slightly drunk, feeling shaky but brave as I told the 911 operator that I needed help. Two men in blue uniforms showed up quickly, and made me sit down right away to tell them what happened. They gave me no privacy. They didn’t ask my friends to leave the room and they didn’t shy away from asking about details. “Did his penis penetrate your mouth? Where did his ejaculate go? Did it touch your clothes or your skin?”

After telling them the entire story, they made me write it down on white lined paper with yellow and pink carbon copies below it. My humiliation was recorded in triplicate. It’s now filed away in a manila folder in some metal filing cabinet deep in the bowels of the Lynchburg, Virginia police station. Anyone with access to crime records could look it up if they wanted to.

Because I was a minor at the time, the cops took me to the police station so my mom could pick me up. When she arrived, they made me tell the story again, in front of her, while I squirmed in my seat and avoided all eye contact with her or them. I didn’t want to say the word penis in front of my mom, much less explain how my mouth was on one only a few hours ago.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have been tempted to have joined the 95% of assaulted women who don’t tell the police. It turned out that there would be no way of catching my assaulter because there was no concrete evidence against him. My “second rape” seemed pointless at the time. It was my word against his, and I didn’t know how to find him. I didn’t even know his last name.

Even though reporting my sexual assault was almost as traumatic as the assault itself, I’m glad I did it. I’m proud of my sixteen-year-old self for fighting back and doing what I could within the limits of the legal system. I’m one of the 5% who was willing to put my shame on paper. Do I blame the women who choose not to? Absolutely not. I understand them, and sometimes even envy them. But I believe I did the right thing. Our legal and political system is oh-so-flawed, but it won’t get better if we hide from it.

It’s worth it to speak up. If not for ourselves, for the women that may benefit from better laws and more rigorous anti-rape education in the future. Me and my teenage sexual assault may only be a statistic, but numbers can sometimes change laws. All I can do is hope that I’m a statistic that makes a difference.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

United States

I'm a writer, reader, teacher, social advocate, and Ashtanga yoga practitioner. I write creative nonfiction and cultural critique, with a focus on addiction, alcoholism, recovery, and yoga. In 2015, I graduated from Butler University with my M.F.A. in nonfiction writing. I live in Indianapolis with my husband, our four dogs, and two cats.

Writer // Teacher // Reader

Read more about Emma

Join the Conversation