I have heard people, people who do not understand rape, have not endured it themselves, ask the question: “If you didn’t report the incident to the police, how do you expect anybody to take your question seriously?”
Rape is a trauma and worse so than any other because of the grave violation. Survivors can feel ashamed, frightened that they won’t be believed or in plain shock and denial.
Many reasons stop a survivor going to the police to report rape, often times it does not enter their minds, at least it did not enter mine. I was in shock and then encouraged to drop the matter, so I did. Only when the mask of shock that protected me for three months, kept me going, kept me cut off, dropped could I think straight. Only with the support of friends and family who encouraged me to speak out, to report the matter, did I contemplate going to the police. But as time passes and evidence is not taken, the case becomes a harder one to fight in court.
Too many people do not see or comprehend or perhaps do not want to admit the psychological effect. They think, Well if I was raped, I would have… But all the ‘I would have’s in the world will not kick in when even that person is put through the trauma of rape.
Trauma does strange things to people, it deletes their memory, it numbs their minds, and more (read more about PTSD here). All in an effort to help you cope, survive longer. Despite the reasons victims might not report or might take some time in reporting, it should be mandatory.
As I see it, rape is a crime. Rape is illegal and such violations of the law need to be handled by the police, need to be put in their hands. Even though the victim may not be in such a position to make that call, I believe someone close to them should do it for them, should encourage and help them with giving their statement. Surely someone privy to such information is wrong to not inform the police? Surely they are then an accomplice to the crime of rape? If I knew the name of someone who had murdered their wife, for instance, surely by keeping that information to myself I am being unlawful?
The victim has the right to pull out of pressing charges or of a court case at any time. They do not have to go to trial but at least by reporting the matter, the police are aware of the wrong doing. At least if that survivor does not push the matter, if another one comes along and charges the same man for rape, their story is made more believable because it is now not an isolated incident.
The idea of being put on trial in court is one I face too. It is fear of this that makes many rape survivors reluctant to report the crime. Millions of rapes go unreported and even if they never do report it, the rape still is not and never will be their fault. Just because it wasn’t reported doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.
In court, the rapist gets a lawyer, as preposterous as that seems, and it is his job to make the survivor seem like she/he does not know what they’re talking about, was drunk or is promiscuous, any defence they can come up with, as false and as hurtful and offensive as it might be. Besides the court, there are other people who ‘put a victim on trial’, in the sense that they victim-blame. I have endured this and it too rattles the mind of the survivor, makes them doubt themselves, think they deserved to be raped. This delays if not wholly prevents them reporting the rape or even telling anyone at all.
Again, all this aside, we need to get these rapists behind bars and the more we treat rape not as a shameful thing, not as a questionable crime, and more like a murder or armed robbery, the more chance we have of achieving this.
In my eyes and in my hopes, victims who can should report the assault they have been through. I did so although the words could not come out of my mouth at first and my father had to step in to help, but eventually the words came and I gave my statement and felt proud to. If the victim is incapable of doing this, surely it remains the responsibility of someone who knows of the rape and knows the survivor well to report the matter. Surely this is a matter of law and if that person silences the survivor, they are committing a crime?
At the end of the day, even once we’ve reported the rape and gone to trial – not very easy things to do – the case might still be thrown out, but you have the right to go that far and a responsibility as a human being to other human beings, to not let rapists and silencers continue to reign.
For more information on what to do if you have been raped click here
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