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Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Harassment, Abuse or Rape



The #WhyIDidntReport stories keep coming in… You see them everywhere on social media and they haven’t stopped at all. What I don’t quite understand is that there are people still asking why women don’t come forward with these allegations or accusations?

Although I know the reasons, they dawned on me today, yet again, when I thought of a situation with a colleague. I won’t be mentioning any timelines here, to protect myself from any legal action placed on me for a matter that was otherwise “settled”. Although I wish I wouldn’t have to.


I had been harassed by a colleague. When I look at the traumas I have faced, it may come across as “mild” but doesn’t dismiss the fact that it was what it was. Harassment. I had been standing in the corridor at work, taking a quick personal call I could not ignore (something with my insurance), when a male colleague come up to me and lightly ran both hands up and down my torso. Yeah, that happened. I was shocked, dismayed, flabbergasted- I was confused.


I stepped outside, far enough away from anyone who could hear and told my best friend, Sorrel who had just called me. She told me to give him a message and let him know he should never do that again. So, I did. It just didn’t feel like enough and the rising anxiety wasn’t helping me either. What if he did it again? What if he thinks I liked it? What if knows I didn’t like it and doesn’t care. I told my manager and she uttered the words, “Well you know [fill in name], he’s silly and probably didn’t mean it. I mean, what he didn’t was wrong, but I don’t think he meant it that way.” Red flag raised.


After a discussion between all three of us, we reached an understanding that he was wrong, he was sorry, and he wouldn’t do it again. The nature of the harassment made me want to believe him, so I left my manager’s office feeling somewhat empowered. Then she made that all topple down quicker than a house of cards could be blown with a single breath. At a later stage, when we were alone in her office, she said to me, “[fill in name] felt awful. When you left the office, he cried. I really think he didn’t know what he was doing.” Here comes another red flag.


Is she being serious? Did his tears make him seem innocent or ignorant to his actions? Is it because I tried to stay composed and didn’t cry that I seem unmoved by it all? Did his somewhat jovial personality make him seem like less of a culprit? Is it a desensitization to the culinary industry that made her see this situation as less than important? Well I can tell you one thing, I regretted saying anything to her at all. I almost wished I had just left it at the message I sent him and went along my merry way. She intended on me seeing him as anything other than the perpetrator in the situation.


That is just one reason women don’t say anything. What if they take his word over mine? Or, even worse, they believe you but see all the good qualities in that person and forget that you are a person who has been hurt? I had a choice to take a further action, and I didn’t. I thought he understood. I thought I would be too extreme by doing something. I thought I would ruin his career! Meanwhile, I didn’t feel comfortable at work.


So here I am, upset and going through all the reasons women (and men) don’t say anything about sexual harassment, abuse, assault and rape (sooner or at all). It is worth mentioning that it is a flaw created by society that has brought me to question this issue that shouldn’t be questioned at all. Victims and survivors should not feel like should NEVER say anything.

Let’s scan through the reasons, shall we:


- Denial: We try to deny what has happened to us. We even go so far as to say that “it wasn’t so bad”. Did you feel violated? Were your boundaries crossed? Well then, you shouldn’t have to deny or minimise the experience or how you feel. Your feelings and the situation (no matter what it was) is valid. A comment, an unwanted touch, grope or penetration, does not make nothing. It is something.


- The Consequences: What if you lose you job? What if you get demoted? What if you get treated badly at work? Here’s my question: why do we have to think of these repercussions as a result of something we did not do? Why? We have been taught there will be consequences (look at history) and that it’s not worth it to say something in case you lose your job. That’s pathetic and hurtful. There should be job protection for those who come forward and there should be no fears. These fears can stem to other factors like being disowned from family, ostracized from friends and losing your community. The problem is not you, it’s them.


- Shame: a natural response to being violated. You have been humiliated and risk being humiliated further by saying something. When we feel ashamed, we want to run and hide. Not let anyone see what happened. This is deep inside us all because we have all felt shame about something in our lives. If there was less shaming from society, we may try to find the strength to say something.


- Not being informed. According to www.psychologytoday.com, 70% of women are sexually harassed on the job. But guess what’s the real kicker? When they go over improper conduct at work, HR doesn’t really inform us what it is and WE don’t really know what sexual harassment is… That percentage almost mirrors rape statistics. Shocking! Women (and men) don’t know when they are being harassed. All you know is that you feel uncomfortable. Period.


- Fear of not being believed: So many people can say this is one of their primary reasons for keeping quiet or saying something later. Look at high profile cases, where women come out with experiences and people say, “he couldn’t have”, “he’s a hero”, “she’s far too nice to do that!” The message it sends is that your culprit, your perpetrator, would never do that and you need to re-evaluate the situation. So, if victims are not believed with high profile cases, who are you to say anything about Joe, Steve, Mark, Stacy at work or in your personal life?


- Victim blaming: were you laughing too loud at their joke? Wearing a nice outfit? Did you stare to long in their direction? Did you go out for a friendly drink with them? Well you asked for it then! Of course, you didn’t, but this is the warped way in which society thinks. People need to believe the victim did something in order to make this horrible situation happen to them, whether it was harassment, assault or rape. Read that again and highlight ‘horrible situation’ so you know it was not the victim’s fault. No one asks for something horrible to happen to them, so why would someone want to be sexually violated?


There are some other reasons and I only touched on those that have really stood out and that have affected me personally. As a global society, we have not made it easy for anyone to really say anything about these incidences. What makes it worse is that when we finally do have the courage to say something; to come forward; to name and shame, we are told “why didn’t you say something sooner?” “if it really affected you, why didn’t you speak up at the time?” And then we wonder why women (and men) don’t say anything.


Drop a comment if you can relate, know of someone or even agree.