A few years ago I followed a link and read this by Andrea Dworkin. I was upset and confused about such a strong feminist choosing not to report such a horrible thing to the police. I didn’t understand. And I felt it was my right to judge her, and all of her feminist acts, based on this one thing. I was very, very wrong.
These days though, I get it. I have never been raped (to my knowledge), but I have been in bad situations and haven’t reported any of them to authorities. I won’t report him for drugging me. I won’t report him to HR for causing my work life to be increasingly uncomfortable just because we had a bad date. I didn’t report my previous employer for the harassment and subsequent victimisation they put me through, even though it led to me quitting with no job lined up. And those are only the recent examples. I have a long history of not reporting things, and I feel this will continue far into my future (assuming of course that these horrible events keep occuring to me).
Someone at work attempted to convince me to report this one to HR because he’s making me uncomfortable at work and that’s not acceptable. We spent a good twenty minutes discussing it last week and she became quite worked up on my behalf. But, while discussing it, I looked down at what I was wearing and saw it through another’s eyes. I looked at my denim skirt and my high heels, at my obvious, but work appropriate,* outline through my top. Then I thought about the fact that I willingly dated someone from work. That I chose not to take my own car and that I chose to walk into his house, admittedly after a very long argument. And then I chose not to put myself through the humiliation and scrutinising that would come from a formal investigation into a formal complaint. Not at work.
And with this one, I was told to report it or he could roofie someone else and rape them. This hit on a nerve, and took me back to my Dworkin judgements and made me think about it. And then I thought about the number of times I slept at his house, in his bed, willingly. The number of times I would give him a massive hug and kiss on the cheek in public and the number of photos that show this. I considered the number of people who have already accused me of being a tease because of all these factors. The amount of blame I’ve taken for ‘leading him on’ because I like his company and his arms around me while I sleep, but don’t want to screw him. And then I thought about my own mental wellbeing and health, which have already taken fairly large hits in the last couple of months and are currently comprimised.
I have absolute no proof in either of these cases. Nothing to pin these acts on these arseholes and make them receive the retribution they deserve. Reporting them, either or both or any of the others in my past, will lead to a horrible time for me, and at best a slap on the wrist for them. One of the arsehats is seen to be an upstanding member of his church community, so where would I honestly stand against these people with my complaints of no proof? I drink, I party, I date, I enjoy my life and live it the way I want. This will not look good for me in any complaint proceedings of this type.
To be 100% ok with making a complaint in any of these instances, I need to believe that I am not, in any way, at fault. And at the end of the day, I can try to convince myself of this til I pass out from the effort, but I know how I contributed to the situations I was in. And when my friends tell me things like “you move too fast”, “you should see guys in group situations before dating them”, “you should always take your own car”, “you should do whatever it is that you didn’t do just so this seems like it was your fault and not their’s”, it’s hard to not just take the blame and shut up.
And then a very well meaning (and possibly correct) friend says “you should report it to help anyone he does it to in the future” and suddenly not only are the events that happened to *me* my fault, but all future bad things this person does are my fault too. And haven’t we all heard this many times? So now I’m left in a situation where I will either face the shame of reporting the matter and having it rejected, or the shame of not reporting it and seeing the same happen to someone else.
And I’m well aware that the more people who stay silent, the easier it is for the scum to get away with this. And I’m aware that if they’re caught early it lowers the chance of it recurring. And I’m aware that it’s harder for people to step up and report things if no one has come before them. And I’m aware that by staying silent I can be seen as complicit in his next assault.**
However, I would absolutely be more than willing to stand up loudly and fiercely to defend anyone that does report their situations. I wouldn’t think twice about it and I would ridicule any suggestion that their behaviour, dress or lifestyle should be taken into account when investigating the complaint. I just can’t do that for myself
And it’s possible that makes me a bad feminist. But I’d be sharing that title with Andrea Dworkin, so I’m feeling like I’m in some pretty good company here.
People who have written about this better than me:
I’ve edited this article from the first published version and reading through it has got me more worried. It seems that bad things are happening in my life on a sliding scale. And as I rationalise away each ‘little’ thing or occurence, a bigger one will happen and I’ll do the same. In the future this could become a much larger problem for me.
*funny that even here, in my safe space, on my blog, I feel the need to qualify that.
** this word was chosen by someone else, I’m still not 100% convinced it was assault. Except if I read about it happening to someone else.