A lot of men and women face that decision at some point in their lives. It may be a friend, relative, co-worker, or a total stranger, but someone out there has made them feel worthless.
A few months ago, my cell fell out of my pocket on the bus. It was stolen before the bus driver could collect it. When I tell people about this, the reaction is the same.
“That sucks! People are the WORST!”
Even though each time I tell the story, I mention that I left the thing on a bus seat – the epitome of “asking for it”, people are bummed out for me. I get a lot of “just because you dropped it, doesn’t mean it’s OK for someone to take it. Why didn’t anyone bring it to the lost and found?!”
It does not become my defining characteristic. I am not the woman whose phone got stolen. Rooms do not go silent when I enter, because I’ve been the victim of a theft. I am not judged for how I dealt with the crime. I can still be a whole person, apart from being without that one phone.
When you’re labeled a victim of a sexual assault, your life is changed forever. You will never outrun that label. Any accomplishment will have an asterix (she succeeded after surviving a sexual assault!). Every failure will be attributed to the same thing (she failed because she was assaulted!).
The thing is that you don’t need to convince people that we should do something about most crime. We don’t have laws against murder because of how many murders there are. We have laws against murder because you shouldn’t murder people.
So why is it that sexual assault needs the justification of numbers? Why is it that we are told that only if more of these are reported will it be acknowledged as a real problem? If you are robbed, and it is the only robbery in the entire world that year, does that mean we shouldn’t have a system in place to reinforce that our society does not accept that behaviour? That there are consequences to going against our societal moral compass? It is a crime, same as any other.
These pointless number games are designed to hide a deeper truth. Nothing is being done not because not enough women are coming forward. Nothing is being done because no one cares and because doing something about rape is so insanely difficult. It’s not just about rules.
Rape is a symptom of a much much bigger problem that need solving – human worth.
It’s not enough to say “stop raising rapists.”
It’s not enough to stop teaching young boys to associate violence with virility.
It’s not enough to stop telling young girls that they should be passive in the search for love or stop victim-blaming.
Even people who do not commit or having sexual crimes committed against them are suffering from the conditions that allow that sort of behaviour to flourish, because we have not stopped teaching our children and ourselves that our value as humans extends beyond our sexual organs.
So no, I don’t feel like I’ve failed my sisters by not reporting, because it shouldn’t matter how many people report a crime. What matters is the message we send as a society – even if there isn’t a single crime committed.