The Ballard Talisman

Learning to believe

Grace Harmon, News Editor

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I was raped my sophomore year.

Looking back now, the event itself has been blacked out from my mind from overthinking, and from the time I’ve spent avoiding it.

What really has stayed with me is what the people who knew said to me. I remember walking to my friend’s house the morning after, because it was too early to go home, and walking in and being suddenly unsure of what I should tell her, what she was going to think, and if it would be taken seriously, or if she would think it was a “bad hookup.”

I shouldn’t have been worried about this. I should not have had such a quick thought and should not have had to worry about the plausibility of what had happened.

Soon enough after, I had a friend tell me that if I wouldn’t tell her every detail of what happened and what I had done to try and fight it, she would assume I was lying. And I did tell her, as much as it hurt to rehash, because I didn’t want people to think I made it up.

Nearly every story I’ve heard about a girl coming forward and saying that she had been assaulted by someone, whether at a party or by someone she was dating, is then followed by, “But he says she’s lying.”

Rape is not new to humanity. People have brutally attacked each other in this way since the Dark Ages, throughout times of war and slavery, and well into today’s society. I would have hoped our society would have evolved enough to not attack the victim.

According to the FBI, the number of “unfounded” rape accusations has been consistently reported to be about eight percent — an incredibly low number. An unfounded rape accusation is not necessarily false, but specifies that rather than forcible rape, the alleged victim didn’t try to fight back, the alleged rapist didn’t use a weapon or physical force, or the victim and rapist had a previous sexual relationship.

In contrast with this small percentage, there are 293,000 rapes reported each year, a large number considering around 65 percent of all rapes go unreported. One in six women, or one in thirty men, has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

That statistic didn’t mean enough to me before, though my dad had told me the gist of it a long time ago. He also told me that about three out of five of his female friends had been sexually assaulted,  and bought me a pink pepper spray container for my keys, but I honestly don’t think I took it completely seriously until I was raped.

My friends didn’t know what to say when I told them, and my dad wanted me to report it to the police, but I knew people would find out and I wasn’t ready for that, so I didn’t.

I wish I had.

It took me most of the remainder of high school to move forward, and to be able to say it to someone without breaking down after, but I’m okay now, and I feel prepared for people to know that I’m one of so many victims out there. There’s a difference to note, though, that I am choosing to make this public rather than it being spread and judged through gossip. It would have been much harder to recover from if it had been more public, as many girls experience.

To be sexually assaulted is an ultimate invasion and betrayal of choice, privacy and trust. If there’s one thing I hope we can begin to seriously do, it’s this: don’t attack a victim. Just don’t do it. Because a person really doesn’t understand how it changes someone until it has happened to them. And as much as I pray that no other person in our community will have to go through it, I know it’s not true.

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Learning to believe