No matter when or if someone comes forward with their story, it does not make it any less true.
With the strength of the #MeToo movement, this is becoming a question many people are asking. Some are generally curious and don’t know the answer. Others try to use the fact that someone did not come forward sooner as a way to challenge their claim. There is no simple answer. Everyone has their own reasons for coming forward or keeping it to themselves. Some people may never disclose what happened to them, while others may take a while to discuss their story.
Let’s break it down by looking at the statistics:
- 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men are sexually assaulted in Canada. 
- Out of every 100 sexual assaults, only 6 are reported to the police. 
- Only about 0.3% of perpetrators of sexual assault are convicted. 
- Out of the reported sexual assaults, only 2-4% are false. 
These statistics show the basic facts of sexual assault in Canada, which are important for everyone to know.
If you were someone who has been sexually assaulted and you are looking at these facts, what would you think? Would you be discouraged about telling your story? I know I was.
When I was raped, I happened to be dating the person. My first thoughts were clouded by confusion. "He cares about me; he wouldn’t rape me."
It took me a while to admit to myself what had happened. I was afraid to tell anyone, even my mom. I didn’t want her to be mad or upset. Of course, she was loving and supportive when I told her, but these were the fears that I had. I felt like somehow, I had caused the assault to happen. Like I should’ve known better, and it was my fault I put myself in that position. I kept thinking about all of the things I should have done. I should have never gone there, I should have tried to fight back harder, I should have left him after it had happened. But I didn’t. I internalized so much guilt and shame about what happened. It took me a few months to tell anybody my story. At that point the nightmares and depression were so bad I knew I needed to get help.
Counselling helped me realize that it wasn’t my fault; that I did all that I could to try and survive. My body was in the fight, flight, or freeze mode and it froze. I can’t fault it for that because I am still here and alive. As much as I wish I could change the past, I can’t. And I had to accept that and begin to heal. When I thought about reporting to the police a few months later, I was met with a harsh reality. That the chance of conviction was low, and that I was going to have to tell my story over and over again and be grilled by the defense.
After going through a workplace investigation earlier, I knew just how traumatizing that could be. To have somebody question everything you did and said. Questioning why you can’t remember every little detail or why you didn’t act a certain way when you don’t even know yourself. To rip you apart and make you feel like it was your fault. And that the fact that I was dating him, and stayed with him after, made the chance of conviction even smaller. I felt hopeless. I had already come so far from where I was; I did not want to have to go through that again. To be thrown back into the depression where it was hard for me to eat, get out of bed, or interact with anybody.
It was exhausting just to exist.
So, I decided not to report my abuse. I chose to heal in other ways and use different avenues to find closure. While the journey has been a roller coaster, I can happily say that a few years later I am happy. While there are still bad days, they don’t control my life like they use to. I am in a loving and supportive relationship which I never thought would happen, and now I am in a position where I can help people to heal from whatever trauma they may have faced in their life.
There are many reasons someone may not come forward; shame, guilt, fear of not being believed or being retaliated against, confusion about what happened and if it was sexual assault, having nowhere or nobody to turn to, or wanting to just move forward and put it in the past. No matter the reason, it does not make the sexual assault or the effects any less. Everybody has their own reasons, and they should not be judged for that. Whether someone chooses to report or not, it is their choice, and all you can do is love and support them. Just remember that if you have experienced sexual assault that you are not alone and there is hope for healing.
In Ontario, May is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month to bring attention to the devastating impact sexual assault has on survivors. It is also a time to discuss how to prevent this violence from happening and how we can better support survivors. There is still a long way to go to end the stigma of being a sexual assault survivor and to help survivors have easy access to much needed services such as counselling, proper medical attention, and legal support. You can help raise awareness by wearing purple and having these conversations about how to support survivors and stop the violence.
 Ministry of the Status of Women. (2015). Statistics: Sexual Violence. Government of Ontario. Retrieved from
 SexAssault.ca. (n.d.) Sexual Assault Statistics in Canada. SexAssault.ca. Retrieved from https://www.sexassault.ca/statistics.htm.
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