One-in-five women are sexually assaulted during their college career. Unfortunately for me, I was one of those women.
I have not seen justice served to the man who attacked me and I don’t believe I ever will. The morning after he attacked me I didn’t go to the police. I didn’t write down what day it happened and the only people I told brushed it off like it was no big deal. It has been a year since I was attacked. There are still times I lie awake in bed sobbing because I now know that if I’m caught off guard anyone can take advantage of me without my consent, but I am getting better.
But my story is just one out of a million similar stories from men and women who have been sexually assaulted, and have never seen justice.
The Washington Post has said there is no sure statistic on how many unreported sexual assaults occur annually but in my experience it is probably at least twice the number that are reported. The reason I didn’t report what happened to me is because to this day, I don’t believe the police can do anything to help me.
About six months after I was attacked, I met a woman who had been raped her freshman year of college. She was so scared after the incident that she just went home and took a shower to try and relax. She never spoke about what happened to anyone except close friends until a year later, when she finally worked up the courage to go to the police. She submitted her statement detailing what happened when, where and who did it. To this day, this woman still has not seen this man charged, arrested, or put on trial for what he did.
I can’t blame the police for not doing anything, though. Unless someone who is attacked gets evidence of the incident the day it happened, it’s the survivor’s word against the assaulter, and there is no way to tell who is telling the truth. If police were to start arresting every person accused of sexually assaulting someone, how many innocent people would be put behind bars?
The best thing a survivor who’s waited too long (like me) can do is just try to try to move on, if you feel like it will help use the resources campus offers. I hear SAAVI has worked wonders for other people. And if you are religious know that one day the monster who did this to you is going to rot in hell.
To the men and women who will be sexually assaulted, I beg of you be brave. Go to the police after you are attacked and put these people behind bars so they can never hurt another person again. I was too afraid to do anything. If I could go back and do it again I would do things differently.
To the friends and family who we tell our story to, you don’t need to apologize. We don’t blame you for what happened. We just want to feel safe again. If you really want to help, tell us that we are safe when you’re around.
This is an unjust world and I can’t tell you that it will ever become just, but I can tell you that we cannot stop fighting. We cannot stop trying to help people understand that they are survivors not victims. We cannot stop trying to make the world safer, and to get people to understand that taking away someone else’s free will by forcing yourself on them is wrong.
— Shanie Howard is a junior studying journalism. She loves her family and friends and hopes to one day work for the Associated Press.