Should I report a rape that happened four years ago?
October 26, 2014 1:44 PM   Subscribe

I was raped by S, a new friend and coworker, four years ago. The circumstances of S and I working at the same large company led me to keep it hush among some of our mutual friends and not seek legal recourse. Most of the time what happened doesn't bother me, but sometimes it resurfaces when I think about how I handled it, how he never learned anything from what happened, and that I never found any closure personally. Maybe reporting it will help put this to rest? Complication: entrepreneurship and being the face of a company after filing such a report.

Many, many details provided to paint a better picture of where I'm coming from and how it might be beneficial to report it after all this time:

The assault itself was pretty black and white. I was out with one of my roommates for happy hour, S was in the area and I extended an invitation to join us. He was at the time relatively new to the area, hired at my workplace within the last year, and seemed to be a generally introverted English professor type who just wanted a good beer and good company. Our group outing grew in numbers as more of my roommates and close friends joined us over the course of the evening.

The DD drove us all back to shared housing, and while on the way home I passed out in the back seated next to S. My roommates told me he was rubbing my back, to which I didn't react at all, and then when we arrived home I went to bed without a peep, looking very tired/drunk. My roommates noticed S walk down the hall toward my bedroom about five minutes later, and assumed he was passing out somewhere on a couch in that direction. Instead, I woke up in the middle of the night still drunk as hell and with S in the process of doing everything but actual PIV sex.

I tried desperately to become more conscious, asked him what he was doing, and he said, "Do you wanna have sex?" as he scrambled to get his pants off. The room was spinning, but I managed to kick him out of my room before I passed out again. He ended up staying the night in the living room, and came back to my room in the morning to retrieve the glasses he'd left on the floor before leaving. As soon as he was gone, I told all of my roommates what had happened as we were all carpooling to our mutual workplace. One of the guys said they saw S go into my room, but then heard moaning, and so didn't feel the need to intervene.

The immediate aftermath of that assault was me disclosing what had happened to closer friends instead of getting any actual work done. It was never an option in my mind to report it to our mutual employer, as the department we were both working in was run like a high school by the managers of that huge team. The rumor mill alone was enough to render an individual worth letting go, as we were all entry-level contractors. I also didn't want our whole network of coworkers and friends to label me as Anonymous, the Girl Who Was Raped by S.

Less than 24 hrs after S assaulted me, I confronted him at a large after-work outing where we both had been planning on attending. I pulled him aside and asked him what the fuck, and why, and really what the actual fuck? He had nothing to say, said he didn't remember anything that happened, and then apologized(?!). I told him he needed to get his shit together and seek therapy before he does this to someone else, and that I could go to the cops and ruin his life but (in my eyes, at the time) wanted him to get the actual mental health support he needs instead of being laid out by the system with no actual rehabilitation.

After that: my best friend hunted S down, gave him the opportunity to confess, and then punched him in the face when he denied anything had happened. My boyfriend (now ex) at the time told me that this is why I should lock my doors at night, then otherwise shrugged and never brought it up again. One of my closest female friends who was the most upset about the assault at the time decided to forgive S eventually, lived with him as a roommate less than a year after the incident, and all because in her words, "deep down I believe he's a good person." She and I are still friends, but this single point of contention has caused considerable strain for me in that friendship.

It's been a long, weird road since then. A lot of my mutual acquaintances with S from that time in life are still unaware of what happened, and are good friends and co-workers with him, which disgusts me to this day. I have distances myself considerably from that huge clusterfuck of a group in part because of all of this, and subsequently lost my professional network from that place and time because S is heavily embedded in it to this day. I've heard from several people that S tells a different version of what happened anytime someone bothers to ask -- I think the funniest one was the time S told someone he did what he did because he thought my group of friends and I were all swingers.

Four years later, I feel like he got away with what he did without consequence. I've realized that I am not supposed to be the arbiter of redemption here, nor should I offer it -- at the time, when deciding not to report the assault, I thought I was doing him a favor to seek the help he desperately needs. The last I heard, S has formed a crippling case of depression, buried everything deep, and remains incapable of forming healthy relationships with women. I never sought therapy for myself through this anytime after, but am very strongly starting to feel I should if it's still coming up after all this time.

Anyway, my main question is, should I report the rape now that it's four years later? Would it even accomplish anything consequential for S? The complicated part for me now is that I'm positioned to be a very public person in the near future as a company founder. I'm afraid that this whole mess is going to come back to bite me in the ass acting as the face of a company, so would appreciate any advice or encouragement on that front.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total)
From the perspective of an outsider reading your description, it sounds like there is almost no way for the relevant authorities to prosecute an assault based on the information you've provided. Unless S has re-offended or has confessed (neither of which sound like the case), I don't know what there'd be to go off of beyond a ugly he-said, she-said argument with questionable (all drunk) witnesses.

I think you should report the crime - but report it to a therapist rather than to the cops. You may find in the future that you decide you do want to report it. However, right now, it's not clear to me how reporting it can make you better off, and there are (unfortunately) many ways it can make you worse off.

Cops are poor substitutes for therapists. In particular, they may actually make your trauma worse due to pervasive sexism in sex crimes investigation.

Also, in most jurisdictions, rape requires penetration, which it sounds like didn't occur. Sexual assault is an appropriate charge, but you may find that your jurisdiction has a statue of limitations less than 4 years. I am only providing this information from a legal perspective rather than criticizing your language.
posted by sockmypuppet at 2:01 PM on October 26, 2014 [12 favorites]

I am very sorry about what happened to you. I think it would be helpful for you to seek therapy or a support group to assist you with dealing with the aftermath (I think it is pretty common to think one has dealt with a traumatic situation, only to have it resurface years later).

As to your question, I just wanted to say this: it seems like you want S to get it, i.e., to understand that what he did was both morally and criminally wrong and that he hurt you. I completely understand the desire. Unfortunately, I don't think reporting the rape to the police will help you achieve this. In fact, I suspect nothing will satisfy this desire. Whether S ever comes to get it is completely beyond your control. I know that is unfair and unsatisfying, but I think if you could come to accept that, you would be better off.

In saying this, I don't mean to imply that you shouldn't report the rape; I can think of many reasons why you should. However, I do think that for your own psychological health you may want to think about what this is likely to accomplish and what it isn't likely to accomplish. This is something that would be helpful to discuss with a therapist.
posted by girl flaneur at 2:04 PM on October 26, 2014 [13 favorites]

I am so very sorry this happened to you.

I am answering this Ask post on the basis of what I personally think is going to be most helpful to you, OP, and not on the basis of what is objectively The Right Thing to Do. And I am so ashamed and want to weep over what I am about to say:

The complicated part for me now is that I'm positioned to be a very public person in the near future as a company founder.

Is this a tech company? Is S. also part of the tech community? Because if so, I would counsel you not to disclose at this time. Your credibility as a newly launched founder is under scrutiny and the prevalent broculture is likely to be, at best, unsupportive of you and at worst, turn on you. It is astoundingly unlikely that within a professional context, there will be consequences for him that are anything like as burdensome as the consequences you potentially may be forced to shoulder.

I would however encourage you to seek a therapist, and also to find a support group for women who have been sexually assaulted. For some of us, the ability to tell our stories and be heard and acknowledged by a group is very important when there's no other recourse.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:20 PM on October 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm so sorry for what happened to you, and I totally get why you want resolution.

I don't know whether it's a good idea for you to report your rape, though -- I can imagine a ton of pros and cons, and I don't know what's right for you. I think you should talk with a rape crisis centre. They will have a better handle than AskMe does on the pragmatic/legal aspects (like anything related to the statue of limitations) and also the emotional ones (what is best for your recovery).

Separately: if you're in tech and about to launch something and you don't already have a good feminist support network, I think you should get one. Tech is a tough industry right now for women, and it can be especially gruesome for women in public-facing roles. It's more fun and you'll be better equipped to navigate the bullshit if you have a network of experienced feminist allies with whom you can commiserate, share information and strategize. If you don't know any good people I'd recommend maybe the ones behind Geek Feminism, or maybe checking out your nearest feminist hacker/maker space. Good luck :)
posted by Susan PG at 3:14 PM on October 26, 2014

I am a rape survivor. I also did not report the rape to the police, but I did tell many in our circle of friends. He told his version, I told mine, and in the end I distanced myself from the whole group because it was easier. Many of them are still friends with him today, and it makes me sad and angry sometimes, but less and less as the years pass. I remind myself that they may know what happened, but they don't really KNOW what it was like for me. I try to forgive them.

I do not think reporting it now will bring you closure. Even if he was found guilty and "punished", you are still going to be dealing with the aftermath of the assault and he won't have learned a thing. Punishing him will not heal you. I wish it did.

My revenge fantasy was to confront my rapist and ask him "Why?" and unleash my anger on him. I got my wish many years after the fact, and after it was all over it hadn't changed anything. I still occasionally get angry about it. I still get scared starting a new intimate relationship. I still want to make him suffer. But even if I had rock solid proof and was able to turn the whole world against him, it wouldn't erase what happened. All I can do is face it and keep going.

You said that you think about how you handled it. Let me just say that I've thought about what I could have done differently about a million times. And in the end, I have to let it go. I did the best I could in a weird and scary situation... and so did you. You didn't do anything wrong. There's nothing you should have done or not done. No matter what you decide to do now, find someone to support you (therapist, friend, or online support group) and remember you aren't alone.
posted by rakaidan at 3:55 PM on October 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

What happened was terrible. And I'm sorry.

At this point, there's nothing Law Enforcement can do about this. I wish someone kept a log of men who sexually assaulted women, but without proof, it would be slander.
This guy may NOT remember what he did, and he may have very different understanding of what happened. Lots of men don't understand that the absence of denial isn't consent.

Talk to someone at Rainn hotline about your feelings on this, and find a therapist to help you process what happened to you and to help you move on.

One thing is that you may need to accept that this man, and other men, may never understand how violating your body in the way that they did is a crime and wrong. You can educate people going forward, but you may never revenge yourself on this man for what he did. He may never be punished and you have to learn to be okay with it.

But do speak to professionals, it can be very helpful.

I wish you happiness.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:02 PM on October 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

sometimes it resurfaces when I think about how I handled it, how he never learned anything from what happened, and that I never found any closure personally. Maybe reporting it will help put this to rest?

This is not what the legal system will do for you or to you, in my opinion. I was part of a support team for a friend who decided to press rape charges against a mutual acquaintance; it went to trial. It was a horrible, awful experience. And all of this happened quite soon after her assault. He was found not guilty.

Better, I think, to start with a therapist who has experience with treating people who have been sexually assaulted. I'm very sorry this happened to you.
posted by rtha at 4:14 PM on October 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I never found any closure personally. Maybe reporting it will help put this to rest?

The legal system is not going to provide you any kind of closure--regardless of outcome. It is not going to help you define the event to yourself, or to others you are concerned may be skeptical minus a conviction. You will experience secondary traumatization. Depending on how overwhelmed (i.e. urban or other high crime/low funding area) the district attorneys are, best case scenario may be having someone tell you, "We believe you, but we cannot win this and therefore cannot spend the resources on it."

Find a support group of other survivors, and/or a kick ass therapist.

(I hope this didn't come off as harsh, but as supportive and as concerned as it was intended.)
posted by blue suede stockings at 5:28 PM on October 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

The question you asked is "should I report the rape now that it's four years later?"

Practically speaking, I am not sure that that is the question you should be asking. Depending on where this happened, the incident may not actually be considered "rape" (it might be "sexual assault"), and the statute of limitations may have expired, in which case the authorities aren't going to be any help. I would urge you to check these things out to find out for yourself if reporting this incident is truly an option at this time. Sadly, the time for action may have been 4 years ago.

I think that what you need to be asking yourself is "how can I put this past me?"

Having said that: one thing you can do is keep your eyes and ears open for this person, and if you hear that other women have had "problems" with him, you may find some closure and purpose in coming forward with alongside other women that have had problems with this guy.
posted by doctor tough love at 5:42 PM on October 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't know about the local resources where you are, but I would strongly suggest that you call your local rape crisis hot line. In our area, there are some wonderful people who can sit down with you and help you think your options and the consequences. If you do decide to go to the police, they will go with you and give you moral support. They will also know the local laws - if the statute of limitations has expired (I have no idea) then you would want to factor that into your decision. The big advantage to talking to them is that it is not a official report - they will totally support you in doing whatever you decide is right for you.

Second, some therapy might be a very good idea to help you come to terms with what happened, to be compassionate with yourself for the decisions made at the time time and help you do what you need to do to move forward without this weighing you down so much. EMDR is a short-term therapy that is particularly good at helping people work through the aftermath of this kind of significant trauma.
posted by metahawk at 5:51 PM on October 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing that reporting is unlikely to cause the consequences you (very properly) desire.

Your actions, and those of your best friend, strike me as kickass, well-reasoned, and admirable. It's not your fault S. failed to take advantage of the second chance/wakeup call you gave him.

Your current interest in therapy seems similarly well-founded. As a supplement, you could also try ritual, which can help rape survivors achieve closure and transformation. If your aftereffects keep manifesting as concern for S's redemption, you might include a ritual towards that end. Maybe a benign version of a voodoo doll. Not saying it'll work, just that it could provide a channel for you to work through things without having to deal directly with S, and without compromising your public persona.
posted by feral_goldfish at 6:57 PM on October 26, 2014

I find your question relevant, especially in terms of your professional concerns. I am NOT minimizing your pain or experience.

You (me) need to keep quiet and process our fallout privately. If we could have acted differently in the moment, it would be the culture we are in that is more Just. We did our best within the boundaries we exist within.

Side Note: there's a highly likely chance the wrong-doers will design an execute their own downfall. Should the discrete opportunity arise, don't hesitate to help hasten that demise in a smart way. You don't know what the future brings. Resolve to be A FORCE OF GOOD if an appropriate scenario presents. Don't compromise your own ethics to get back at anyone.

Take the high road. Stay empowered.
posted by jbenben at 11:58 PM on October 26, 2014

If it is within the statute of limitations, then I say yes, go ahead and report it. Law enforcement may very well be a bunch of assholes about it (ask me how i know...) but at least you have done the good deed of establishing record if he assaults someone else. He will probably not be formally charged as at this point it will be a "he said she said" thing.

Do not report this to your employer or school. Organizations have an interest in saving face which typically means downplaying sexual assault and rape and thus they tend to not take said issues seriously enough when accusations are made. Let the law handle (or unfortunately probably in this case, record and not handle) breakings of the law.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:21 AM on October 27, 2014

I have no idea whether or not you should report your rape, but I am 1000% sure that you should google "[your area] rape crisis center" and call them. You were assaulted, you need and deserve compassionate help in dealing with this traumatic event. Just because it's been 4 years doesn't automatically fix you. I mean, it would be great if trauma could be linked with statutory limits ("oh shit, it's been x years, I'm cured!"), but it's really not that way.

You need and deserve compassionate help. Please, please make a call.
posted by disconnect at 7:13 AM on October 28, 2014

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