What To Do When The System Is Against You

By Koli Marie

Since allegations have come out against Bill Cosby, there’s been a trend of abusers being punished, whether it’s a news anchor losing his job, syndicated reruns of an abusers show being pulled from network TV, an actor being fired from their show, or prosecution, we’re seeing more and more powerful men be punished for their behavior; rightfully so. Unfortunately this is the exception to the rule, not the norm.

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According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, someone in the United States is the victim of sexual assault every 98 seconds. That’s roughly 882 people every single day in the U.S., less than half of those victims report, and even fewer of those perpetrators ever see a single day in jail.

The #MeToo movement is wonderful and has allowed us to have conversations that before were too taboo. There are still many survivors suffering in silence. There are still survivors who report their assaults who don’t get believed. There are reports that still sit in police precinct filing cabinets, that may never be looked at again.

My report is one of those reports. It’s been nearly five years since I reported my sexual assault to police, and I haven’t heard anything from them.The one time I called to get information, I was hung up on by a dispatcher. I was made to feel guilty that I hadn’t reported, and was pressured into doing so. Don’t let anyone pressure you,  you don’t have to face your assailant in court, you don’t even have to report them and name them for who and what they are. That choice always rests with you, and regardless of what choice you make, it’s the right one. Ultimately, what is going to help you heal is not seeing them be put away, but rather, being supported.

We cannot place blame on a survivor for not coming forward, because as society is now, we treat them horribly when they do. We accuse them of lying, rather than believing them. We care more about their assailants future than theirs, we still see headlines that refer to Brock Turner as “the former Stanford swimmer”, rather than “the convicted rapist”.

It’s time for us to support survivors, even when it’s difficult or uncomfortable for us. It’s time for our communities to rally around survivors instead of perpetrators. It’s time to hear survivors, bear witness to their story, and offer them resources.

How can you help? Joyful Heart Foundation has some tips. Listen, especially if someone trusts you enough to tell you. Don’t shut them down because it’s uncomfortable. Validate their experiences, and let them know that you believe them and it wasn’t their fault. Ask them what they need, give them resources if they need them, never push them to press charges. That is their choice. Remind them that they have someone in their corner, you. Often times survivors feel alone. So, even if you haven’t been through it, you can still be there for them.

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