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Davis, California

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Rape? Yes, I do want to talk about it: Why nobody wants to report

Reporting rape is important. Super important. We need to report because 88 percent of rapists will rape more than once. And, like, why would we knowingly let someone get away with that?

Even with these statistics, rape is the least reported of all crimes. On college campuses, only 11 percent of victims report their experience. But, why? Could it really be that bad?

Let’s take a closer look:

Picture it. You’ve just experienced some form of sexual assault. You’re completely shaken up, and although all you want to do is lie on the floor and never move, you can’t ignore your mother’s nagging voice in your head telling you to take action.

So you desperately try to remember that one phone number everybody seems to think is so important: 9-9-1, was it? Wait no, 9-1-1. You dial the number and in seconds there’s a herd of scary policemen in your room aggressively asking you really simple questions that suddenly seem daunting.

“Do you spell your name with an I or an E? When was your birthday?”

And you have absolutely no idea because all you can think about is the terror creeping through your bones.

The police officers proceed to take everything in your room that could be used as evidence. They take the hand-stitched blanket on your bed. They take the teddy bear from your desk on the grounds that Bear-y observed the entire event first-hand and must be brought into the station for questioning. They take the 20 bucks from the floor – because come on, it’s 20 bucks.

Then the police shove you in the back of the police car. “Wait a minute,” you think. “Am I the criminal?” You’re sitting there on a seat equivalent in comfort to a cement floor, and think to yourself, “What kind of people have sat in this same exact spot?” That thought sends chills down your spine.

When you get to the station, or the Center for Advocacy, Resources & Education at UC Davis (CARE) office, the questioning continues. Only this time the questions are actually difficult and you haven’t the slightest clue how to answer them. Detective Jim looks you dead straight in the eyes, past your eyes and into your soul and says in complete seriousness, “I want you to tell me… during the assault… was your left pinky positioned at a 90 degree angle, or was it more like a 95 degree angle? ”

You silently criticize yourself for not paying closer attention to your pinky while you were getting raped, and proceed to do nothing but sit there – with a blank stare and a suspicious-looking pinky resting on your lap.

Next, they graciously give you a victim’s advocate. Finally, someone who gets how horrible this is. So, you and your advocate set out on a whirlwind adventure to the sexual assault clinic far far away (there is no clinic anywhere close to UC Davis).

Upon arrival, you find out you’ll be getting 87 shots to prevent against every STD ever.  The names sound so unfamiliar you’re pretty sure the doctor just made them up on the spot so he could stab you with the maximum number of needles. Once the stabbing is done, you get to have the deluxe PAP smear special. Does that sound like fun? Because it means a stranger sticking a gigantic tube up your butt.

Congratulations! You’ve just had the most horrible night of your life. But hey, at least the worst of it is over, right? Well, not exactly. Plot twist…that was the easy part. The hard part is everything that follows.

The hard part is going through with the University and criminal justice reporting process with the constant reminder from others that you are “Ruining somebody’s life.”  Or when everyone around you loves your rapist way too much to think of him as the monster you know him to be. Or when your friends come up with ways you could have prevented it, or reasons why you should get over it. Or when the University pretends like they have all this power, but they leave you living next door to your rapist for two months. Or when you testify in court and actually pass out from a panic attack. Or hearing, from his attorney, that your story is full of lies, when you know so deeply in your heart the reality of what happened to you. The hard part – is knowing that while your friends may struggle with feeling homesick or passing Chemistry, you have to struggle every single day, knowing that this process is excruciating. And  eternal.

Everyone wants victims to report their experience. I want victims to report their experience. But if it’s going to be this painful to report sexual assault, then we can’t really expect very many people to willingly rip that duct tape off their mouths.

Like her bluntness? Contact Maddy Pettit at mepettit@ucdavis.edu

Graphic by Jennifer Wu.

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