Why I Didn't Report Being Raped in College

Image Credit: "UNC South Building" by Yeungb - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Here's how it started.

I was raped in grad school and didn't tell anyone. (That's a common story.)

Later, I told someone about my rape, but I didn't report my rape because reporting rape on campus was, and still is, kind of a nightmare. (That's also a common story.)

Later still, I wrote a short story about being raped and published that, but the story was fiction and not real. (It was not real.)

And then, years later, I began doing anti-rape activist work, and the Title IX complaints started happening. I decided to report my rape to the school, hoping that reporting would be less of a nightmare now. (Maybe it was less of a nightmare. But it was still a nightmare.)


I never reported my rape to the police -- even though, even now, I could. North Carolina, the state where I live, where he raped me, has no statute of limitations for felonies.

No statute of limitations. What he did will always be a crime. In my eyes, and in the eyes of the law. Right?

Sort of.

That's the problem.

Why didn't you report being raped?

Other people ask me that question, sure. But mostly I ask myself.

Why didn't I report being raped? I ask myself that question a lot. And then I torture myself with the answers.

Why didn't you report being raped?

Because my rapist is a doctor and no one will believe that a doctor would do something like that.

Because I was basically cheating on my boyfriend when I went home with my rapist. And even though I didn't want to have sex with my rapist, that won't matter in the eyes of a prosecutor or jury.

Because I have a psychiatric disability that will torpedo my credibility in the eyes of anyone, and I mean anyone, who knows anything about prosecuting rape or defending against rape charges. I am a lawyer, and I know that anyone with a psychiatric disability like mine would have her credibility as a witness destroyed by even the most poorly trained, overworked, and nervous defense attorney.

Because I know that my psychiatric disability will come out in court, no matter what the rules of evidence say. It will. And I will have to listen to them, the members of the self-same profession that I'm a part of, doing defense work that I know is important, I will have to listen to them destroy my credibility as a witness to my own rape on the basis of a psychiatric disability that has absolutely nothing to do with my credibility as a witness in the world of empirical fact, but everything to do with my credibility as a witness in the world of stigma and bigotry.

Because I don't know if I will survive that experience.

Why didn't you report being raped?

Because I was so drunk on the drinks my rapist gave me at the bar that I passed out in my rapist's car while he drove me to his apartment and so I didn't even know where we were. My drunken state didn't matter much to me until after he raped me. After he raped me, I didn't know how to get home. So I asked him to drive me. And then later I realized that asking him to drive me home would give a defense attorney even more ammo against me because why would I ask him to drive me home if I was afraid of him? Why would I choose to spend more time with him if he was a rapist? Why didn't I just run out of his apartment and start screaming? Isn't that how a rape victim is supposed to act?

Because I didn't act like how a rape victim is supposed to act.

Because I was so drunk and passed out in my rapist's car, and therefore I didn't know which of the little towns around here his apartment was located in. When I think about reporting to the police, I realize that I don't even know which police station to report my rape to because I don't know which police force has jurisdiction over my rape.

Because I don't want to even think about the word jurisdiction.

Because after I was raped, I hated myself and wanted to die. And I still kind of do, even years and years later.

Why didn't you report being raped?

Because my rapist was a friend of my family, and I didn't know if they would take his side.

Because I knew that if my family took my rapist's side I wouldn't have a family any more. So I thought it would be better not to put the issue to the test.

Because the first time I was raped, when I was a child, adults blamed me for it. My animal brain is still really confused about that. My animal brain knows that being blamed hurts and believes that keeping secrets is less painful than risking being blamed again.

Because I can't believe that I am a person who was raped twice. What does it say about me that I am a person who was raped twice? Am I a perpetual victim? Am I doomed to be victimized, attacked, forever?

Because maybe my brain really is broken. Because maybe it really is my fault, if it happened to me twice.


This piece originally appeared in Side B Magazine. Reprinted here with permission.