when is the “right” time to report sexual assault? the short answer: any time

Like nearly everyone else in America, I want to talk about what’s happening with the #MeToo movement.

Let’s get something straight to start: life for women is abundantly different than it is for men. We have developed habits that are truly engrained in us, so much so that we don’t even think about it when we do these things in hopes of protecting ourselves. These behaviors are practically nonexistent among men.

Every day holds potential threats for women. Every. Single. Day. And by denying that, you empower the men who think they’re above the law or above ethical and moral behavior.

While a movement has started – or for the sake of argument, resurged – in the last year or two, it does not diminish the fact that we still have a long way to go.

We must believe women when they speak up and we must respect them when they tell their stories “late.” Why? Because the threat of being shrugged off as a misunderstanding, a joke, or an inconvenient time for the perpetrator is no longer an excuse.

We cannot allow these excuses to be more important than listening to these stories. The reality is that there is no “right” time to report sexual assault.

I don’t consider myself to be a victim, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some uncomfortable stories.

I will be honest and say that, as a woman who has never been a victim of what I would consider sexual assault, there have been times in my life where I was uncomfortable.

When I was no older than 4 or 5, an older boy who was a friend of the family was reading a book to me on our sofa. When I said I wanted to go take a nap with my mom, he said I could just stay and lay on the couch with him and we could take a nap together. My father was in the next room, likely watching football and napping in his recliner.

When that boy thought I was asleep, he looked down my shirt and pants. But here’s the catch: I wasn’t asleep. I remember wiggling around a little and pretending that I was asleep because I knew that what was happening was wrong in some way, but I was scared. I didn’t get up right away.

I cannot tell you exactly what time of year it was; I can’t even tell you exactly what year it was, but based on the house we were living in at the time (which is, incidentally, how most of my childhood memories are recorded in my mind), it was most definitely between 1992 and 1995. And up until this moment of me writing it, I told only one person my entire life: my BFF, JW.

he blamed me, but was it really my fault?

Thankfully, after that day, I never experienced an outright physical or threatening sexual advance throughout my childhood.

However, once I became an adult, things were different.

I first became sexually active in college. My first (and really only) college boyfriend wasn’t a virgin, but when we met, I was. Incidentally, we attended a private Christan college and sex before marriage was akin to one of the dirtiest and foulest of sins, so once we did start sleeping together, we had to keep things quiet.

The summer between our freshman and sophomore years, we went on vacation with his family. On our way home from vacation, he and I split off to finish our leg of the journey separately from everyone else.

We stopped at a shitty Best Western motel somewhere in Arkansas or southern Missouri the night before I was supposed to be back home to Kansas City. The whole point was that we wanted a night of privacy where we could have sex and not worry that someone was going to knock on our bedroom door. (Sadly, though his mother tried, we did not get a private room on vacation and shared with his much younger brother. We also had to take turns sleeping in a twin bed… No double for us!)

While we’d had a few opportunities to get busy while we were vacationing at a Georgia beachside resort, we were excited for the prospect of being completely alone. We had sex at least twice that night. The next morning before we left, he wanted to do it again.

Due to my inexperience at the time, I didn’t realize how much of a number all that sex friction (especially with a condom, I might add) really does to your vagina. While he was on top of me, I told him it hurt – I was so sore from the night before.

He told me it wouldn’t take long and asked me to hold out for a while longer. (I would also like to point out here that clearly, he was not interested in my pleasure during that particular romp – something I hadn’t really thought about until much later.)

I stayed quiet for another minute or so and then whimpered and asked again for him to stop because it was painful for me. After a few more pumps, he got mad at me, stopped, and stormed off to the bathroom and said something insinuating that this situation was somehow my fault and that I was being unfair.

He said I was being unfair…

I can’t tell you what city we were in, the full name of the hotel, or the exact date, but I can tell you it was in the summer of 2006. I am fairly certain that until this moment, writing it down for the whole of the internet to see, that I told no one about this story but JW.

beware the Tinder…

I have just one last uncomfortable story to tell you – one that didn’t take place for another 9 or 10 years.

A few years after I had moved to Korea, I started dating dudes I found and met on Tinder. One day, I matched with a guy who asked to be called “DeeDee.” Okay, I thought. Weird, but whatever.

I met DeeDee a few nights after we started chatting. At the time, it had been several weeks since I’d last been laid (if not months) and I was semi-desperate for an orgasm. I completely ignored a few red flags – his fast and heavy-ish drinking, for one – and took him home with me.

As with most first sexual encounters, it was alright, but nothing to brag about. After all, these things do take time… So, I agreed to meet him again later that week – he would just come straight to my place and stay the night. We would hang out and hang a sock on the door.

I like to tell this story to friends and strangers alike because it’s just so incredibly ridiculous that it’s funny. One day, I’ll write the whole thing out and share it with you. But when you strip away the laughs and the funnier parts of the story, it’s downright scary.

Never in my life have I been so scared in my own home. I felt trapped in my own effing apartment with this man.

That night, he got blackout drunk and somewhat belligerent. I was completely sober having had just one glass of wine to his finishing the bottle in addition to his own (entire) bottle of soju. Neither of us “finished” and when I (truly) accidentally managed to knock the condom off him, he was upset and wanted another; I lied and said I didn’t have any more.

Why was I scared?

Because I knew he had a knife in his pocket after he whipped it out to cut a stubborn wine cork off my corkscrew earlier that night.

Why was I scared?

Because after he went out for a smoke, he came back and, while the room was pitch black, told me that he went into the convenience store across from my building and that the clerk “disrespected” him (or something to that effect), and that in retaliation, he had “cut him.”

(This turned out to be a horrible joke that, the next morning, he claimed to have no recollection of.)

Why was I scared?

Because I was afraid that if I kicked him out or asked him to leave or locked him out, that he might make a scene and wake the entire building. I also knew that as a foreigner in Korea, I would not have the police support I might otherwise have at home if I called the cops to escort him away. I knew that if he had an altercation with the Korean police that he would be in serious trouble with the military police for a myriad of reasons, none of which are important here.

But I didn’t report him; I didn’t report him to Korean police or to the military police, which I could have and likely should have done. I was terrified and told him the next morning that I never wanted to see or hear from him again.

real talk: it’s never the “right” time for women to report sexual assault.

Why do I regale you with these tales? Why am I, more than a decade later in the case of 2 of my 3 stories, bothering to bring them up now that so much time has passed?

Because based on what is happening in America this year, they matter.

I do not have horrible or even especially painful memories after having had these experiences, but they still very much shape who I am and how I feel about sex and my personal safety. I cannot begin to understand how other women feel who intimately know the truly horrific and harrowing experience that is sexual assault. That is not my story, nor am I attempting to make it so.

What I am trying to drive home is that plenty of women (and men, for that matter) have an uncomfortable story or two that they have never told.

They may not tell for a number of reasons and their stories, like mine, may seem somewhat “harmless” to others or outsiders. Alternatively, their stories may be gut-wrenchingly tragic and yet they may never utter a word about them.

So, ultimately, why don’t they tell or report the transgressions of their abusers?

Because there is never a “good” or “right” time to tell a story or report an actual sex crime.

I recently read an article from Slate that put it so eloquently that I couldn’t bring myself to not share it in my Facebook feed (even though I knew only about 2 people would likely see it and so much as blink at it):

“But here is the deeper reason why women don’t publicly report their assaults until the last possible instant and until they absolutely have to: Women who are victims start the clock at the moment of their trauma. Men who are perpetrators start it at the moment they are caught.”

–Dahlia Lithwick, journalist and host of the podcast Amicus

There is no “good” time – not immediately after it happens; not a day or a week or a month or a year. Not multiple years.

Too often, reports and stories go unheard or, when they are voiced, dismissed.

we need to continue this conversation…

There is so much more wrapped up in this topic than what I’m committing to writing right now; so much more that I want to say. But I will wrap up my rant with this:

False reporting is extremely rare, so why do we treat so many cases as if they’re completely incredible? We cannot let the stories of women be cast aside without acknowledging their pain. We cannot turn a blind eye anymore. We cannot ignore their voices.

We must listen, whether it’s a story that took place earlier today, last week, last year, or during the last decade.

Believe women. The timing does not matter – the story does. We need to listen and we need to respond appropriately. If we do, perhaps someday, things will finally change and sexual assault and uncomfortable stories will become things of our past.

 

3 Comments

    • Krissi Driver says:

      As always, Dan, thank you for reading – and thank you for saying that. My hope is that by sharing these uncomfortable stories, both men and women can help those around us better understand the true depth of the issue.
      It was good to start writing again, though I wish I had been inspired by something else! Needless to say, the floodgates have reopened and my fingers are tingling. 🙂 More to come.

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