Why I Didn’t Report by Heather Bussing
I’ve been raped twice.
It wasn’t violent. I didn’t fight.
When it’s someone you know well who has power over you, it’s rarely violent. Instead, it’s the repeated no’s, the avoidance, the laughing it off until the moment comes where those things don’t work anymore.
In that moment, I had to calculate whether to risk my paycheck, chance for advancement, and career as a lawyer, or acquiesce to someone putting his penis inside my body. I was terrified of saying no to my boss because he had the power to ruin my life. I knew he would do it; he told me he would. The silent horror and shame seemed preferable to the loud and damaging consequences of saying no or reporting what happened.
In another moment, I had to calculate whether I could survive on my own when the man I was involved with had already taken so much, my work, my confidence, my freedom. I would lose everything, including my children.
Both times, I succumbed to sex when I did not want sex and I had clearly said no. I did it because I felt I had no other choice. I needed to buy time to get out.
I sacrificed my body so that I did not have to sacrifice my life.
These are the choices women make every day with men who have power over them. There is a line in an Anne Lamott novel where one of the character’s was feeling shame over giving her date oral sex so that she didn’t have to have intercourse and could just end the date. Her friend sympathized, saying “Who hasn’t?”
When people ask why we don’t fight back, it’s because it would just make it worse.
When people ask why we don’t report, it’s because it would just make it worse.
That does not make it okay, not ever.
We say nothing because we need every ounce of strength to keep going, to get away, to heal, and start over. We need the privacy to find ourselves again in the devastation of having our options closed off and our bodies invaded by someone who thinks he is entitled to be there.
We struggle to trust, to love, to believe in ourselves and the good in others.
And when we learn that it happened to others. We say, ‘me too’.
I am not interested in punishing the men who raped me. I do not want to give them any more of my time, or attention, or life.
What I want is for other women to know that they made the best choice they had in the moment. That we are stronger than we know. And we are not alone.
Together we are far more powerful than they are.