Survivor stories from the WhyIDidn’tReport movement

When people query the WhyIDidn’tReport stories it turns out there are many reasons, but it is more prevalent than you think. 

The #MeToo movement has brought the discussion of sexual abuse, harassment or even simple sexism into mainstream conversation. One of the most hotly debated issues is why do people step forward years, sometimes decades after the incidents occurred, or even not at all. This has given rise to another movement with the hashtag WhyIDidn’tReport and stories from people who have sat on their own experiences, mainly in silence.

Some weeks ago at my monthly film appreciation group, which is a cross generational age-group, the topic was discussed. We have all known each other for some years and our age range is 30-70. Gender composition is six women and two men, all different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. What was notable about this meeting was that of the eight of us, only one had not been a target of some sort of sexual abuse or inappropriate conduct, either socially or in the workplace.


Changing times

On his own admission the solitary man who had not experienced inappropriate contact or abuse confessed to a caveat. He wondered with hindsight that some of his youthful encounters would be perceived differently. Now 70, the gentleman said “We have gone from the lady doth protest too much  – to strongly delineated rules of consent. Until recently men were expected to be persistent. Remember the iconic scene with John Cusak holding the boom box in Say Anything? Some of those behaviours shown in movies would be considered stalking today.”

It highlighted and confirmed two things about WhyIDidn’tReport at an anecdotal level:

  • The overall incidence of sexual abuse and misconduct is really as high as people suggest.
  • The high numbers which are not reported are also valid. It appears to be the norm.

The recent mocking of Christine Blasey Ford by Donald Trump at a political rally showcases the full reality of why women don’t dare to step up. Other reasons cited are shame, embarrassment, guilt, fear and concern for others.

Names have been changed to protect the identities of the people involved:

WhyIDidn’tReport -1: Norma, Age 33

At the time I was 15 and at a wedding with my parents.The reception was in the hotel where we were staying. At about 11.00 pm my Dad, was a bit the worse for wear so my Mum took him to bed with instructions to their friends to make sure me and another bridesmaid, my room-mate, behaved ourselves with the ushers. My dad’s friends were true to their word. They bought us drinks and were very attentive. When the disco finished they made a big fuss about escorting us properly to our room. When we got there they closed the door and each of the men touched us inappropriately and wanted us to touch them.They were friends of our parents and we knew their kids. We never told anyone because we didn’t want to rock the boat. My parents found out later but stayed friends with those couples. We blamed ourselves and so did they for drinking under age. No one blamed the men.

WhyIDidn’tReport – 2: Jeanette, Age 65

I was 13 and our next door neighbour came over to see my Dad but he was out, yet he came in any way. He didn’t rape me, there was no penetration, but he sexually assaulted me. He masturbated in front of me. I didn’t tell my dad. He was a shipyard worker, an active youth leader in the community, a physically fit and big man. I was afraid he would kill the neighbour and be sent to prison. I told no one, not even my mother.

WhyIDidn’tReport – 3: Michael, Age 48

I was 15 and showering after a run. Much to my surprise, my mother’s friend who was staying with us at the time, came into the shower with me. She was probably my age now, maybe younger. I thought she was a MILF, although I doubt the term had been invented then. That’s how I lost my virginity. Of course I told all my friends about it, I was some sort of hero stud, but never my parents. It effected me profoundly. I think it gave me a very transactional attitude to sex which touched all my relationships. Now I am twice divorced and have never been monogamous. I was under age and although I participated, it was inappropriate. As boys we were raised to see things differently and “sow our wild oats.” It was a notch in my belt.

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WhyIDidn’tReport – 4: Danielle, Age 52

I was a Marketing Director and the SVP of my company assaulted me in the underground parking garage on the way out of a client cocktail event. I finally pushed him off me and he told me that if I ever discussed this with anyone my career would be over. The company had a very open sexual harassment policy and genuinely listened. Although I never said anything to anyone, he started to cut me from meetings and my next review was “disappointing.” I left about two years after it happened. I was so angry I needed therapy. Now I could easily come forward – but I couldn’t at the time. I felt really dirty.

WhyIDidn’tReport – 5: Francis, Age 59

In my early career, a senior manager made a point of paying special attention to me and touching me whenever he could. I was young, naive and felt confused, but flattered. At a conference he came to my room and we had sex. It was only with the #MeToo movement that I realised that it was an abuse of power. I could have said no, but was afraid of what would happen and I would lose my job. They were different times. I never told anyone.

WhyIDidn’tReport – 6: Gemma, Age 38

I was at a club having fun when I was in my twenties and I started chatting to a guy. The next thing I remember was waking up in my girlfriend’s apartment. I had no idea how I got there. She had stopped a man putting me in a cab. I wasn’t wearing any underwear, so we went to the hospital to get a rape kit and morning after pill. I then had to get tested for STDs. Apart my from my friend I never told anyone. I went to the police, but they couldn’t help because I couldn’t identify anyone. They did alert all the clubs about having drinks spiked.

WhyIDidn’tReport – 7: Phyllis, Age 44

I was at a party in college and one of the older students, one of the “cool guys”, made a fuss of me. But then he turned aggressive when he cornered me and tried to force himself on me. He unzipped his trousers and pulled my top down and exposed my breasts. A group of his friends were standing around egging him on.This was pre-iPhone days, but I have no doubt that the incident would have been posted online if the times had been different. I didn’t tell anyone – I felt ashamed, dirty, stupid and naive. “When I listened to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony I lived her story with her. It is somehow the noise you remember. I have no idea what happened to the guy who assaulted me.”

These stories are common. The number of women and young girls who are abused is shamefully high, and that’s not forgetting that 1 in 6 boys are also abused. Most are living in silence and pain, some also with anger and shame. Some try to suppress the memories and others say that they have no idea if it has impacted their relationships in later life. How can they tell? If you are a survivor, all you can do is speak up in your own time, or not as you wish, and deal with it in your own way.

The point of this post is to highlight that in a small group of friends who have known each other for a long time we had all shared similar negative experiences. I was one of them. We had never discussed them until a few days ago.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand.

Sexual harassment and inappropriate office cultures are just two of the ways that your company could be losing out on working with top women in business. 3Plus can help you improve with our 12 Key Steps to Attract, Recruit and Retain Female Talent.

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