This is not going to be pleasant, but then, neither is what happened last week. (No, this is not fiction.) A friend of mine was hanging out with her friends and acquaintances, before one of these men tried to rape her, in his car. If not for a well-timed phone call, I shudder to think what might have happened.
For the record, I asked my friend for permission to write about this, first. I have nothing but respect for her, and the bravery she's summoned is nothing less than monumental: she went to the police. I know this because I went with her as moral support.
I cannot grasp why so few women who are sexually attacked, report anything. I get that there is fear, and shame, and potential embarrassment about such things becoming public record. But... it has never happened to me. I can't understand it. I can't wrap my head around it.
At the police station, we went into a private office. She was asked if she wanted me in the room while she answered questions, she said yes. She was asked to detail exactly how events led to her experience, then what happened, then what happened afterwards.
She shared the attacker's name. She divulged where he worked. She explained exactly what he tried to do, and how he tried to do it.
No, they didn't know each other before that night, aside from a chance meeting with friends. No, she did not lead him on. He was supposed to just be driving her back to her own car. No, she did not invite what happened in any way, shape, or form.
We left the police station. I got on the metro, and she drove home. She slept soundly for the first night in half a week.
Hearing this person I cared about revisit such a horrific experience made my blood boil. Outrage is the only word that captures it. Just complete outrage. What could I actually do in this situation?
By supporting her, listening to her, helping to convince her to step forward and say something, I was already doing almost everything in my very limited power. Awareness is one of the only weapons we have. (Although I wouldn't say no to a baseball bat.)
One in three women will face sexual abuse, or attempted sexual abuse, in her lifetime. One in three of those women will face it more than once. This sickens me. I refuse to accept that there is so little I can do, as a man, to stop this from happening besides not taking part in it.
Yes, I wanted to track this man down at his place of work and crack his skull, or take a Louisville Slugger and aim for his groin. But that would actually be wrong. (I don't entirely believe it, but I keep telling myself.) In the real world, the police have been notified. I have to believe in a justice system that will see he pays for what he did. She's made her report.
If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, there is valuable information to be found under resources for survivors. (This is for the state of Maryland, where she was attacked.)
If a friend or family member has been sexually assaulted, please go here for more information on what can be done, and how you can help.
Awareness that this happens is a weapon. Reminders— no matter how unpleasant— force us to be vigilant. But if we don't say something when it happens, how is anything supposed to get better??