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Epiphany: Why Women Don’t Report Rape

            I know what I would say to someone else, but once you’re in a situation, it’s vastly different. I wasn’t raped and I hope the title of this wasn’t misleading. Rather, I recently underwent a situation that forced me to confront the reality of women across the nation.

            Sexual harassment doesn’t feel like a strong enough word for what happened. Nothing truly physical took place, but the impact of words are so powerful. The knowledge of what a man thought about me, what he wanted to do with me is more than enough. My heart truly does go out to those women who have had a situation forced upon them, who have had their liberty stolen from them.

            We should begin with me. I’m 21, short but have large breasts. I wouldn’t classify myself as overly attractive, but I’m not much of a hag either. I’m into alternative rock, feminism and fashion and this is channeled through the pastel purple of my hair, attention to make-up and the way I dress myself. I’m extremely self-conscious, but intellectual. I’ve never been in a relationship and have kissed one boy in my entire life, then never spoke to him again.

            These are things he knew.

            I’m a journalism major and I’ve always been an open book. If something bad happens to me, my dad’s unexpected death in 2014 for example, I push the emotion aside and shrug. “My dad is dead” is a fact. I say it monotonously, shove another Cheetoh in my mouth, and turn on Sweet/Vicious.  I’ve always admired creative types and people who are authentic. In my pursuit of authenticity and a portfolio to show as a journalist, I created an online dating blog chronicling my various mishaps with men I met via Tinder or Bumble.

            He read these things. He knew my perspective on dating, my timid nature, the way I was trying to force myself out of my shell. He knew our one mutual friend and communicated on social media. I gave him my phone number.

            Meeting up with older people isn’t anything new to me. I hang out with teachers from my high school English department regularly. I’m always in a chat with some recent professor of mine, talking about what I’m writing and where I want to end up one day. When he asked to meet for drinks, I was game. I admired who he was as a creator and anticipated an evening operating on a higher intellectual plane than my everyday chats with the two cats in my apartment.

            During the first drink, he kept it casual. He told anecdotes. We talked about the brilliance of Game of Thrones and what makes a truly good story. He talks about basketball, makes comment on how young I am in comparison to championships won. This was what I had been expecting.

 But sometime during the second drink, things shifted. I can’t remember what brought up my experiences with men, but he discovered that I was a virgin. It was a big production. Here and there he’s dropping hints that he’s slept with other students on my campus, that this is a normal thing to him. I begin to shy away.

screen capture from my blog

            A coping mechanism that goes hand in hand with my dismissal of emotion is the front with which I can move easily through life. I don’t squirm. I don’t flinch. I answer the questions with a straight face and fire them back. “Why do you want to know?” “Why are you attracted to younger women?” “Why did you ask me for drinks in the first place?”

            These are things he wants to hear me ask. He likes to interweave different narratives to suit his needs. I know this. He knows that I know this, even drunk. This turns him on more.

            “I think you’re interesting.” “If I didn’t value you and respect you, I wouldn’t have asked you here. It wouldn’t be worth my time.” “You have a nice body but you know just how to hide it.” “Boys don’t approach you because they’re intimidated.” “Will I help you out professionally anyway? Yeah. Do I still want to sleep with you? Yeah.”

            He grabs my hand. He pushes his leg against mine under the table. He wants to psychoanalyze my responses. It’s a game. And despite every instinct in me telling me to get the fuck out, I can’t do it. I’m a Midwestern woman; I’m nothing if not polite. So I play the game and chug my drink, as if that’ll loosen me up. As if that will make me feel better about the fact that he just asked me how often I masturbate.

            I make it out alive. I’m parked just outside, but he’s not letting me go so easily. He leans against the hood of my car, pulls me to him. I stumble closer and he wraps his arms around me. Says something about my value and my mind, just minutes after inviting me to go to a strip club with him.

            I pull away to go, but he follows. He hugs me, presses his lips at my neck, my forehead. Tries to kiss me, and I turn away. I grab my keys and get into my car. He grabs the door and leans down and it’s just easier now to let him get on with it than fight him.

            I let him kiss me. I shut the door and don’t roll the window down when he requests, to say something else to me. I’ve heard more than enough.

            He’s not my professor. He’s not a faculty member currently, though I met him on campus. Nothing physical happened, so there’s nothing to report officially. Even if there was, I don’t know if it would be worth it to bother. There’s no law against being creepy, against knowing a girl half your age is uncomfortable and seeing how far you can push the matter.

            It’s just talk right? It’s just play.

            It feels real, though. It sure as hell affects me like it’s real. I feel violated and vulnerable and I ring my best friend’s doorbell at 12:15 AM and he drives me an hour home so I can sleep in the same bed as my mom.

             What hurts more than all of that is knowing if I took this to the university, if that was something I wanted to pursue, there’s nothing to be done. As is the case with Haskell right now with a rape, it’s all dismissed. My feelings are invalidated. Not only that, but I have to rehash every moment of it in immaculate detail.

            “Are you sure that’s what he said?” “Well what was your response?” “Did you ever, in simple terms, tell him you were uncomfortable?” “Did you try to leave?” “Why did you get so drunk if you didn’t trust him?”

            These are things I’ve been asking myself for over a week now. I’ve spent enough time cross-exanimating myself, I don’t need a middle-aged white man in a business suit to take over the task.

            So what if I had been raped?

            I want to be clear here that I don’t think this man would have raped me. He tried very hard to convince me to say yes to him, but I got in my car and left and he was never at any point in time angry or physically aggressive. That’s not what I’m saying.

            I’m saying that if this event has affected me this deeply, what sort of agonizing pain would I be in had I been a victim of rape? I was reluctant to tell anyone at the university that I had been put into this position for the simple fact that discussing it in any detail is painful.

            I don’t need to bring up Brock Turner. I don’t need to point out yet again that according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), a person is sexually assaulted in America every 98 seconds. That 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators end up in prison.

            I have been so extremely lucky in my lifetime to have a supportive network of people surrounding me who listen. People who offer to talk things through, who actively want to help.

            I was uncomfortable with an older man for four hours of my life. Eventually, I’ll block it out and move on. Lesson learned. Be more careful, be more cautious. As a feminist, I’ve always been very proactive in my views on sexual abuse and assault, but having this small incident has completely and totally brought my perspective to a new level.

            The emotional and mental toll that rape has on women is completely disregarded in the justice system. Victims tell their stories over and over again and come out worse than they were before, either from the amount of times they had to re-live the worst moments in their life or from the abuse the public will put victims through from personal opinion. Ultimately, their rapist will walk free or get a slap on the wrist.

            This behavior is not okay. It should not be tolerated or condoned. As women everywhere march for freedom for reproductive rights and equality, the issue of justice for victims of sexual abuse and assault should be at our forefront as well. 

Thumbnail source, photo source 

Hannah Strader graduated from the University of Kansas in December 2018 with a degree in journalism and creative writing. She has past experience as both a writer and editor for high school and collegiate level newspaper staff and spent the summer of 2017 in London working with Healthista, an online women's health magazine. Her passions include but are not limited to Harry Styles, Taco Bell, witchcraft and books. She has two cats and can recite all the U.S. presidents in order. She's proud to call herself a Her Campus alumni. Formerly the Editor in Chief, Senior Editor, and staff writer at Her Campus KU.
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