real life

'I was 21 and in my first job when my boss took me out to lunch. Then he sexually assaulted me.'

This post deals with sexual assault and might be triggering for some readers. 

My supervisor sexually assaulted me in his office almost 10 years ago.

Behind closed doors, during work hours, he made himself a permanent home in my mind and he’s never left. Not entirely anyway. I never reported him, and I don’t have any plans to do so now. But he is a part of me that I’ve tried my best to erase from my memories.

I try to forget his name — but who am I kidding; it sits at the tip of my tongue. I try to forget the way he wore his glasses low on his nose; the way he collected those POP figurines on the shelves in his office; the way he carefully groomed me to think of him as a friend.

He took me to expensive restaurants for lunch every single day because “I was a pretty girl who should never have to pay for her own things” and as an impressionable 21-year-old at her first corporate job, I ate it all up.

And when he finally crossed the line into sexual assault, I was so confused and manipulated, I didn’t know how to handle it.

Mamamia’s daily news podcast, the Quicky, share what it’s like to report a rape in 2019. Post continues below. 

I knew it was wrong. Of course, I did. But he had already distorted my perception of myself, dragged my self-esteem through the mud, and made me forget I was a confident, strong, educated young woman.

And for that, I’ll never forget him.

But I never reported him.

For many reasons. When I first wrote about my sexual assault, I explained why victims don’t come forward.

Victims face criticism and disbelief when telling their stories, no matter when they speak up. People say their allegations are either not true because they waited so long to come forward, or because “Well, he’s always been nice to me.”

And just as I predicted, I was victim-shamed in the comments section just three days after I published my story.

Besides the self-inflicted guilt and PTSD of the trauma itself, victims also get blamed for things we cannot blame them for.

“Why did they wait so long to say anything? Why didn’t they quit their job after it happened? Why didn’t they tell anyone? If it were true, they would’ve said something before.”

But unless you yourself have faced the horrible predicament of reporting or not reporting an abuser, you simply cannot understand.

I didn’t report him out of fear of losing my job. I was terrified that I would get fired, that my co-workers would hate me, that no one would believe me and I’d look like a problematic employee who was looking for trouble.

But if you read the title of this article and thought, “If you don’t report, you’re part of the problem,” I’ll say to you — I hope you’re never put in the position where you have to decide something like that.

A possibly life-altering decision that could cost you your job, your financial stability, and your sanity.

We have to get rid of this concept of victim-shaming.

It is amazing and admirable and extremely brave when victims fight for justice. If that was your daughter or son fighting to have their voice heard, wouldn’t you want the world to believe them, not berate them?

And even though reliving their trauma is itself also traumatic, victims are still bullied, humiliated, and harassed for speaking out. People accuse them of being attention-whores, fame-seekers, or on a mission to ruin an innocent man’s life.

ADVERTISEMENT

Not even close.

But why aren’t we angry at the abusers? Why blame the victims for how they handled the aftermath of their trauma, and instead, blame the perpetrator who made the trauma happen?

It makes no sense. Yet, it happens every time a victim speaks out. They’re dismissed, they’re written off, they’re made into the guilty party for disrupting the peace — the peace of abuse behind closed doors.

And that’s the reason I never reported him. And as the person who was abused by him, I feel entirely right and at peace with how I am healing from this trauma, no matter what any victim-shamers out there might think.

The most troubling part of this healing process for me has been how the rise of #MeToo has been called problematic for ruining reputations and destroying childhood idols.

Well, let’s get one thing straight. #MeToo has been a desperately needed voice of hope for victims everywhere. It has helped so many people; myself included.

#MeToo hasn’t done anything to your favourite musicians or movie stars — they did that to themselves.

If it upsets you when a victim speaks out and ruins the image you once had of your favourite comedian, actor, or musician, please take this the wrong way when I say, you have some reevaluating to do.

Because to you, your biggest problem might be that now you can’t listen to your favourite artists when they come on the radio. Or, you feel conflicted because you love their movies, but now you feel weird when you watch them, and sometimes, you wish “you didn’t know at all”.

But to their victims, their biggest problem is so far beyond your level of comprehension that they wish the biggest problem in their life was not being able to ever listen to that one song that reminds them of high school prom again.

I didn’t report my abuser because I was scared.

Scared of how others would see me, scared that I would lose my job, and scared that maybe, somehow, someway, it was my fault all along. This is what victims have to deal with; copious amounts of internal shame that follow them for a long time, sometimes for all of their lives.

But the support from other victims and allies everywhere has helped me in my healing process and I am grateful not to be on this journey alone.

I am grateful for the #MeToo movement and for the decent human beings who don’t berate victims when they find their voice and speak up for the rest of us. Because so many wish they could speak up, and they can’t, they won’t — but that doesn’t mean they’re not part of the movement.

I tell my story to give hope and comfort to anyone who may read my story and unfortunately, see themselves in my pain. You are not alone.

The author of this article is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous. 

Feature Image: Getty.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

00:00 / ???