I wanted to share this, a portion of an email that I received, as an addendum to the previous piece on the topic of not reporting rape (with permission, of course). It’s from a woman who worked at a rape crisis hotline, and had this to say on the choice that survivors face:
“We were trained to walk through with each person what the process of reporting would look like – the reality as opposed to the ‘Law and Order: SVU’ idea that it would always lead to swift justice and be a cathartic, affirming experience. We walked survivors through the process from the medical exam, statement at the police, the process of going to trial, etc. We were sure to emphasize the possibility that the reporting process could traumatize the survivor all over again and that it is often a process that puts the survivor on trial. The idea wasn’t to talk anyone out of reporting if it felt like the right thing for them, but we didn’t want anyone to decide to move forward without understanding what it would really entail. Especially if they were being pressured into reporting by a friend or family member.
“When survivors would ask if they had a responsibility to report, we were trained to make it clear that they only had a responsibility to do what was right for them — and that would be different depending on the individual. I often told survivors that they shouldn’t feel guilty not reporting — that it’s a much more complicated decision than some people allow.
“All of this is why I think your post is so important. It can be very hard for people — especially the loved ones of survivors — to understand why someone might not report. The reality is that there are a lot of very good reasons why someone may choose not to. The philosophy at the particular crisis center I volunteered for was that the survivor always knew what was best for themselves, and that the people around them needed to support and respect their decisions as they asserted their own agency.” — RM
Thank you to RM, and to everyone else who replied with such love and bravery.