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Why People Don’t Report Rape

This is mostly just a reblog of a blog post by Sexologist on Tumblr.  The blog itself was posted to my personal Facebook wall by a friend who knows I work at a Rape Crisis Center and exploding-headit languished a few days without my seeing it, because… you know… Facebook.  (The way Facebook decides whether or not to notify about new posts is a subject for another blog and not one related to the subject matter of this one.)  Anyway, when I did read it, I found to my dismay that my brains had exploded all over the walls of my office.  It was quite a mess.  I am still cleaning up.

Because… HOLY MOLY did darned near EVERYBODY do EVERYTHING wrong.  Thankfully, toward the end, some Good Stuff ™ happened, mostly due to the Rape Crisis Advocate who eventually came out to the scene… but nearly every other component to this endurance-race of a report was horrible.  This is a great reminder of why we, who work at Rape Crisis Centers, need to be on top of our game not just most of the time, but ALL the time.

As a sanity check for myself and my agency, I’d like to say up front that our agency does quarterly police briefings with all three local police departments in order to increase police awareness of what we do and the role of sexual assault advocates.  We also have a system where at any time, day or night, not only do we have a volunteer (highly trained in our 65-hour training) advocate on call, but we have a staff back-up to step in if the advocate for some reason can’t respond to a call, and above that person is the head of our Rape Crisis Center, who could also go out on a call in a pinch.  (Although in all the 12 years I have been here, I don’t know of a time we’ve had to fall back to that response.)

So I would fervently LIKE to think that NOBODY who reported to our local PDs or to our agency would EVER have an experience like this.  But the truth is… systems can break down.  People can become tired, or cynical, or have an off-day.  But the fact of the matter is, we can’t afford that.  Not ever.  Because one off-day for us in this support web can equal a complete emotional disaster for someone who is already struggling with one of the hardest challenges of their lives.

Without further ado… here is the original blog.

I accompanied someone to the police station to report a sexual assault, and this is what happened

“Hello… Are You All Right?”

tumblr_m0bepo6OMA1r8u69vI have a cold today—I’ve had it since Saturday.  I didn’t sleep well last night due to impersonating a human faucet.  But I need to be at work for my late shift—in at 1 PM and out at 8 PM.  So, in order to cheer myself up, I go to a local diner for lunch.  I eat alone, reading my Kindle on my iPhone and when I am finished, I have about ten minutes to spare before I have to drive the rest of the way to work.

I walk to my car, unlock it, and get in, closing the door.  I notice vaguely that my car is facing an old, battered white pickup in the parking lot and that there is an older man sitting in it.  Then I pull out my iPhone, fire up the Kindle, and work on finishing my chapter.  Sometime in the reading, I pause.  Because I feel fairly crummy and my eyes have that tired, burning I-have-a-cold feeling to them, I shut them briefly and slump, leaning my head back against the head-rest.  I sigh.

I straighten a bit and go back to reading from my Kindle app.  And a moment later, there is movement to my left and a soft tapping at the glass of my driver-side window.  I glance up, surprised, and see that it is the old man who had been in the pickup truck.  He smiles carefully—I am sure that any man approaching a single woman in a parking lot must be acutely aware that he might be perceived as possibly a threat—and says, “Hello… are you all right?”  His voice is kind.  His teeth are false.

I realize suddenly that I must have looked deeply unhappy—head bowed (you can’t see I am reading from the outside), then resting my head back against the seat and slumping.  Alone in the car, aimless, after being alone in the restaurant.

I open the window a little and smile.  “Oh, thank you!” I say.  “I’m fine, really, I just have a cold and so I’m a little draggy.  But thank you so much for checking on me.  That was really kind of you!”

He lingers a moment to be sure I am not putting on a brave face.  He says, “You just seemed… worried.”

I show him my iPhone Kindle book. He smiles, relieved.  I smile back and thank him again.

He heads back to his battered old white pick-up and starts it up.  I wave and he waves and we smile again before he pulls away, off to do whatever was part of his day.

Apart from having an annoying cold, I am okay today.  But what if I had not been?  What if I had been sitting in that parking lot because I was afraid to go home, because my partner abused me?  What if I was dealing with a death or a severe illness, or fear for a child who was in trouble with drugs?  The possibilities are so limitless—and fortunately for me, I was really okay.

But if I had not been, that moment of kindness could have literally been a lifesaver.

Thank you, old man in the white pickup.  I don’t even know your name.  And you don’t know mine.  But I think I will remember you for a long time.

Sometimes, being an active bystander isn’t about intervening in a huge, scary fight or stopping a date rape cold or helping someone struck by a car.  Sometimes, being an active bystander is simply being… kind.  Simply noticing other people and then having the courage to go up to them and ask…

“Hello… are you all right?”

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