#WhyIDidn’tReport ‘Till I Was 40
Why speaking out about sexual trauma may be easier later in life
It took 36 years and a potential lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court for Christine Blasey Ford to come forward and speak publicly about her alleged attempted rape by Brett Kavanaugh.
Her reasoning was understandable, says Dr. Cecilia Dintino, a clinical psychologist and co-creator of Twisting the Plot, a therapy workshop for women over 50. There is a culture of shame around sexual assault, and shame’s function is to make sure you keep your mouth shut.
“But the problem is a lot of times we walk around having shame about things,” Dintino said, “and we really didn’t do anything wrong.”
It seems as a society we’re starting to break down the shame around sexual assault. Women and men, especially those over 40, are more willing to share their stories publicly. And when the president of the United States takes to Twitter to shame a woman all over again, an explosion erupts.
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
So started #WhyIDidntReport, a hashtag used more than 800,000 times in the last week, in a viral storm of survivor stories. As Dintino points out, the antidote to shame is voice, and the minute you say something out loud, you put a crack in the shame construct.
“I feel that more and more, women want to take charge of who they are going to be in their 40s and 50s,” she said. “They say, you know what? I’m not gonna just disappear now that I’m a certain age. And what comes naturally with that is owning their story.”
Telling your story — and telling it many different ways while giving yourself permission to experience the feelings that come with it — is the first step in healing. Eventually, it’s even possible to grow from your experiences, and get stronger by standing up for yourself.
Here is a selection of women and men over 40 taking that first step and finding their voices:
#WhyIDidntReport ‘ It was the 1970’s. I worked in a bar and wore a minidress I thought he was going to kill me and to save myself I convinced him that I would date him again. Imagine how the judge and defense attorney would crucify me.
— Marjie Erkkila (@ErkkilaMarjie) September 26, 2018
#WhyIDidntReport Because I wasn’t ready to confront it. I’m still not. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I’ve written and deleted this tweet dozens of times bc even saying this much is scary.
— TheBloggess (@TheBloggess) September 21, 2018
I did report, but it was dismissed by the police. I know what it is like. I understand the shame and humiliation and why people don’t report. Women deserve to be treated with the dignity that is due to every human being. #WhyIDidntReport
— Janet Garrett (@Janet4OH) September 21, 2018
I just turned 18.
I had a few drinks.
I was proud.
I was strong.
Boys don’t get raped.
Who would believe me?#WhyIDidntReport
— Brother Jayme (@JaymeHume9) September 23, 2018
I thought I would take it to my grave. assaulted at 19. nearly 70 now and finally spoke about it. he was an exc.,me a student. who would they believe!
no one so I lived with it.
I remember every detail. we never forget.
I believe men do!!!!
— Jill Stumpfl (@teewihnot) September 24, 2018
I was four, and he said he’d kill me. #WhyIDidntReport
— David Leavitt (@David_Leavitt) September 21, 2018
Because I was 18
I was scared
I didn’t think I’d be believed
I didn’t know where to go
I knew my assailant
I couldn’t break my parents’ hearts
I didn’t want to be defined by someone else’s violent criminal act#WhyIDidntReport
— Gretchen Whitmer (@gretchenwhitmer) September 22, 2018
Making Sure Women’s Rights Are Human Rights (TheCovey, September 2018 issue)
If you enjoy this content, JOIN NEST WITH COVEY and receive 12 FREE ISSUES of The Covey magazine delivered straight to your inbox each month! Our magazine features in-depth reporting, first-person stories, and special offers. All just for you.