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I’m going to be honest: Why women don’t tell is very personal for me on many levels.
In fact, this article may trigger some of you, because I know I am nearly crying myself, while writing it.
But 1 in 3 women are assaulted/abused in their lifetime. That statistic is just the ones we know about from women coming forward! So it is definitely way higher than that.
And because we don’t tell immediately, we are often considered liars, and judgements are made on us.
In fact, my stories fall into the “gray areas” that people argue about whether the woman deserved it or not.
And I want to share the reasons why women don’t tell in each situation, in hopes it can answer the age old question:
Why didn’t she say anything?
Why Women Don’t Tell When Being Harassed
When I was around 2nd grade, there was a kid named J who would make fun of me every day. I tried to ignore him but he started to escalate to punching me every chance he got.
And when he punched me, it hurt really bad.
I would go home and cry for a long time.
I felt I couldn’t tell anyone because my brother didn’t seem to like me much at the time, and my parents were more of a “Well, just hit them back harder” type of parent.
But I wasn’t violent. I didn’t want to hit anyone. I just wanted it to stop.
So I finally told an adult that J was picking on me and hitting me. Their response? “He is trying to get your attention because he likes you”.
Okay… I will remember that. This seems like it is not only okay, but a compliment when boys treat girls like that. So therefore, it is normalized and not taken seriously.
I believe this is ultimately where society goes wrong and is what is imprinted on girls from an early age.
Why Women Don’t Tell When Being Harassed Part 2
I used to work in the warehouse of a global company with mostly men.
I loved my job, and I was the type of person who would sing songs from the radio loudly to pass the time and entertain my coworkers.
I used to be open and talk to my coworkers about everything, give them advice on women when asked, and we all had a great friendship.
Then it started to get out of hand.
Two men began to talk to me about what sexual positions they wanted to do with me.
Stuff like that didn’t bother me normally because it was just talk. So I would laugh it off while kindly indicating I wasn’t interested.
Then they began to get a little handsy and would start humping my back when they would walk behind me.
I finally got super nervous and asked them to stop. They didn’t.
So I talked to a supervisor and told them that I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble, but would like his help in asking them to stop. I truly believed they would if someone in authority told them to.
That Isn’t the Way Things Went.
The supervisor told HR and the 2 men got fired. And then I was brought to HR and told I was going to be fired too.
And here is the reason: I talked to the guys openly about women, relationships, and sang songs from the radio (many of which were about love and sex). They told me this means I was inviting their behavior and in fact, initiated it.
I admit, my behavior may not have been professional by singing songs from the radio and giving advice, but I thought I was with friends. I never invited anyone to touch me.
That situation was hell on earth. Luckily, I ended up keeping my job because a big-wig found out what happened and shut down any talks of me getting fired. He didn’t agree that it was my fault those guys were touching/humping me.
Unfortunately, It Didn’t End There.
I was outcasted. I was a walking joke whenever I walked in. People were angry at me for getting those guys fired (which is NOT what I wanted). Supervisors and managers were treating me horribly and making my job a nightmare.
In fact, one guy began to try to intimidate me, because his best friend was one of the guys who got fired. I had threatening notes on my car, he would call my phone and leave threatening messages, and he would try to intimidate me every time I had to work near him.
I did tell someone because I was scared to death of him. And luckily, I told the right person in management, and he took care of it. But unfortunately, the contempt people had for me didn’t end for a long, long time.
I felt I had no friends left there anymore. All because I didn’t want to be humped at work.
So that taught me a lesson: If you tell someone, it’s going to be your fault too, because you invite the unwanted behavior.
Why Women Don’t Tell After Being Raped
I remember being young and hearing about someone who was raped.
I overheard an adult male laughing about it and saying “Yeah right. She is such a slut, she was probably pulling him back on top of her. Now she is calling it rape because she wants the attention”.
My grade school aged brain took that to heart.
Over the years, I would hear people calling women liars, saying they asked for it because of what they were wearing, or that it isn’t rape because it was her boyfriend/husband that did it.
So when I got into a 5 year relationship with someone who abused me (more on that later), I didn’t think it was rape when he would force himself on me constantly.
Sure, it did damage me mentally and I had unhealthy relationships with sex down the line. I thought that was just part of being with someone.
The 2nd Time (or the 50th?)
Years after that, right about the time the sexual harassment thing at work was going on, I went out to a bar with a friend. I was pretty promiscuous at the time, and often went home with random men I would meet.
I was in my early 20s. I had an unhealthy relationship with sex and needed to feel, even for a moment that I was wanted.
At this bar, I picked up a guy I had my eye on for a few months. We always talked, but nothing ever happened. That night, I went home with him.
We got in his bedroom, got all of our clothes off, and I asked him where his condoms were. When he told me he didn’t have any, I told him I couldn’t do anything else and began to get up to grab my clothes. I refused to have sex without a condom.
He didn’t agree with that. He instead pushed me back on the bed and did it anyway, while I struggled underneath him.
Why I Kept Quiet About That
I didn’t tell anyone because I already knew what people would say: I asked for it.
I went home with him, I undressed with him. It didn’t matter that I said no at any point. I had put myself in the position and asked for it because I was there.
So I literally didn’t know if I had been raped or not. I felt violated. I felt alone. I felt gross. I felt like people would call me a liar. I felt something was wrong with me and felt I didn’t have a right to feel that way.
It wasn’t until I told my husband the story 12 years later, that I found out this was rape. He was very adamant about it. It helped me understand why I felt the way I did about the situation.
Unfortunately, I know just by telling this story again, now, that many people reading this will tell me I did it to myself. Because I was a slut, I deserved it.
And you know what? I no longer agree with that.
I said NO.
It doesn’t matter that I intended to have sex with him before I found out there weren’t any condoms. It doesn’t matter that my clothes were off when I said it. I said it and I tried to fight him off of me.
Planned Parenthood Saved Me
There is so much controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood. But most people don’t realize that only something like 1% of their clinics offer that service.
Their services help women who can’t afford healthcare.
The day after the incident with the man who forced himself on me, I saw a billboard for Planned Parenthood. And it hit me that he could have possibly gotten me pregnant.
I couldn’t live with myself if I carried the child of a man who could force himself on someone. I would look at that child every day and remember what happened. How I feel. And struggle with wanting to die for the rest of my life. Knowing he was forever a part of my life.
Not to mention, the diseases he probably gave me.
My doctor’s office wouldn’t be able to get me in for weeks and I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait that long.
So I walked into Planned Parenthood.
Upon telling them what happened, they gave me an exam, free of charge.
They did testing for STDs, free of charge.
They gave me Plan B, free of charge.
Gave me birth control for the future, free of charge.
And offered counseling services, free of charge.
It is because of them that I was able to move on and know I could go back to living my life. I was eternally grateful that they provided me everything free of charge because I would not have had the money to have all of that done, and it would have messed me up for life.
And the fact I could just walk in and they take me immediately was a blessing as well, because I’m not sure if I could have terminated a pregnancy once knowing I was pregnant.
I will forever be grateful to Planned Parenthood because they saved me.
Why Women Don’t Tell After Domestic Violence
I can’t tell you how many times I have been hurt by seeing people on the internet saying “If she is stupid enough to stay, she deserves it”.
And the memes talking about mental abuse being worse than physical abuse? 100% not true.
You can’t have physical abuse in the relationship unless there has already been mental abuse present. So it’s literally the same thing, only one has bruises and broken bones to go with their broken brain.
You don’t just up and decide it is okay for your partner to hit you. That takes months/years of conditioning to break you.
My ex (same one I talked about before) and I had been together for about 6 months before he laid a hand on me. He was the perfect boyfriend. So nice, so charming, he was fun to be around.
Then things started changing so gradually, that I didn’t notice what was happening until I looked back years later to figure out if there were signs.
Ultimately, after conditioning me to believe I couldn’t do better than him, separating me from my friends, and convincing me that I was bipolar (I wasn’t), the abuse started.
Was I Crazy?
He convinced me I was crazy and was imagining the things that didn’t feel right in our relationship.
That when I got mad for him doing the things I didn’t feel were right or normal in a relationship, it was because I must have been bi-polar, and things didn’t happen like I thought they did.
So I started to accept that I was crazy. I never had outbursts, yelled, or got violent, but I started to believe him that there was something wrong with my interpretation of things that happened. I started second guessing myself on everything.
So when he started choking me, smacking me, holding pillows over my head, knives to my throat, throwing things at me, and holding barbells on my neck and pushing down, he had convinced me each time that I was the reason for it and it was my fault. That he had to do that because when he heard me get mad or upset, it was a trigger for him and he was scared I was going to yell and get the police called on us.
He was trying to protect me by keeping me quiet.
I Tried to Tell
One day I walked into work after a particularly bad incident.
I went to the back room, made sure I was by myself and started bawling my eyes out. Another coworker came in and asked me what was wrong. I told her everything.
She was great and even offered to let me stay with her and told me I wasn’t crazy.
But that never happened because another male coworker happened to overhear our entire conversation from the other side of the wall. He went to the president of the company, and complained that I was bringing my personal life to work.
I got wrote up and my job was threatened. And I got transferred to the evening shift, so I didn’t see the coworker who was willing to help me after that.
I realized then that I couldn’t ask for help.
Lying About the Bruises
When people started seeing the bruises, and asking about them, I lied.
I didn’t want to feel the judgement when I would tell them what happened. Because I felt they would blame me just like my boyfriend did, and just like the guy at work did. I didn’t want anyone else saying I was crazy or that I dwelled too much on my personal problems.
And it’s not like he acted anything like this in public or to other people. He was a perfect gentleman in everyone’s eyes. So why would they believe me?
After the breakup, I felt justified in staying quiet when I would listen to people talk about how stupid the woman is for staying. That she deserve what she got if she let it happen.
It was bad enough I had to go through that, and even had PTSD from it.
To this day, I get scared that I don’t interpret things correctly. I didn’t want people thinking I was stupid and that I deserve it on top of it.
So I kept my mouth shut.
Why I Didn’t Say Anything When I was Being Threatened/ Blackmailed / Mentally Abused
The second long term boyfriend displayed a lot of psychotic tendencies.
I don’t say that because he is an ex and everyone says that about their exes. I’m saying it because I studied Psychology and he literally displayed psychotic tendencies.
If the news shows a story of a mass murder, and shows his picture as the shooter, I wouldn’t even be surprised. At all.
This guy not only stole my dog after we broke up, and told me he put her to sleep, but he also sent me videos of him burning the things of my grandpa’s I had gotten after his death.
He also continued to stalk me and play mind games for about 9 years after our breakup. He is the reason I finally changed my phone number and one of the reasons I was excited my husband got a job in another state.
Any time we went somewhere, we had to dress, act, and talk like we were super important. He deliberately made a game out of pissing people off, because he thought it was hilarious to see people emotional. His favorite hobby was trying to make people cry, and not just me.
The mental abuse was pure awful, with the mind games and name calling on top of him making a hobby of trying to make me cry.
Any time he would do something for one of my family members (which was often), he would hold it over my head and use it against me.
He blackmailed me into doing things I never in a million years would have done. He threatened to fire my uncle, who needed the money, anytime I got out of line in his eyes. He threatened to steal a car back that he sold one of my cousins.
He would use my phone and email accounts, when I wasn’t around, to send things to people, so they would think I was a bad person.
He spent all my money because he had a gambling addiction, so I had none left to pay my bills or to get my own place with.
Then when we found Brownie, he used threats against her to “keep me in line”.
I hated him. I hated him while we were together and after we broke up.
But I didn’t leave for 4 years.
I had nowhere to go and no money to put down for a deposit anywhere.
People would say I could stay with them, but I had to leave my dog behind.
There was no way I would leave her behind with someone like him. Plus, he kept threatening to screw over my family members. I couldn’t allow that to happen, so I bit the bullet and bided my time.
I Never Said Anything
Why? Because I knew I had already had the other stuff happen and knew I shouldn’t be in this situation. I felt guilty for feeling like I couldn’t do anything about it.
I felt guilty for having my family members choose between me and their livelihood.
I did tell people after we broke up, because after he stole my dog, it was hard to keep that quiet.
Their reactions were just bad mouthing him, telling me I should have known better because I had a degree in Psychology, and making me feel like I was crazy for not wanting to leave without my dog.
I felt I had zero support. It felt like there was so much judgement towards me and that is never a good feeling.
It made me never want to say anything ever again. It reminded me too much of all the other situations where I tried to tell.
I tell, I get judged and constantly have to explain myself on my actions.
So when he continued to stalk me and play mind games with me years after we broke up, I didn’t say anything to anyone other than my husband, who supported me and helped relieve my worries, like a supportive person does.
It took me 10-15 years to talk about this stuff with anyone. And my husband was the first one I told.
My brother knew a bit about the last ex, because he was the one who helped get my dog back and eventually gave me a place to stay, but he didn’t know any of the other details or incidents.
I still get PTSD.
I can’t handle people telling me I’m crazy, acting like I’m crazy, calling me names, or questioning my interpretations on why I think/believe something.
I can’t handle people calling other people names and it makes me sick to my stomach.
I can’t hear a neighbor fight with their partner without me crying for hours on end and being scared he is going to kill her.
Loud noises and voices ramp my anxiety way up.
I have constant anxiety over every single action I do.
Everything is my fault. Always. So even when I am in the right and the other person is wrong, I’m the one who takes the blame.
Which in turn, makes me a great scapegoat.
I’m getting better at all of this, but I still have a long road to recovery.
I never had confidence and am just now starting to get it. But unfortunately, any time something happens to remind me of things in the past, my confidence shatters and I have to start trying to build it from zero again.
And I shut down in the meantime.
Things like that take time to get over, but I will get there eventually. I know I will.
We Want to Protect You
A smaller reason why I didn’t tell the people who I actually thought would care, is because I was trying to protect them.
I was scared if I told the people who might care about me, about some of these things, they might have served up their version of vigilante justice. Then they would possibly be in jail right now, serving a life sentence for going after the guy(s).
That’s not what I wanted. I didn’t want anyone else’s life to be affected. Mine being affected was bad enough. It would somehow make the pain worse knowing that because of protecting me, someone could do something that would ruin their lives.
I couldn’t allow that. Going after the abusers wouldn’t change anything that already happened, so it isn’t worth it.
I needed support, not vengeance, and I wasn’t confident that would happen.
So Why Do We Not Tell?
Mostly it is because we are afraid of being judged or our actions being questioned. That we are the ones who did something wrong to deserve it. Or maybe a small part of us wants to protect you from what we are afraid you might do.
More than 1 in 3 women have things like this happen to them. If you don’t know of anyone, it is only because they haven’t told you.
No means no.
When we are touched, it should only be when we give permission, and we should have every right to stop it at any time. We should not be subjected to ridicule on top of the abuse we already encountered.
NOBODY deserves it, even if they “put themselves in that situation”.
We Are Not Liars
The first reaction people seem to have is to call the woman a liar.
I get it, there have been women that lie about it. But that is not the majority.
I saw an article about a prominent woman talking about her PTSD after her assault. The comments on that article were EXACTLY why women don’t speak up. It made me sick to my stomach to read them.
I want to give you a little advice: Just because you don’t like someone, or they don’t fit in with your beliefs or agenda, doesn’t make them a liar.
The woman’s PTSD reactions that she was talking about are exactly on point with how someone who has been assaulted would act and feel.
And saying she deserved it because of where she worked, or dressed a certain way, or because you don’t like her political beliefs? That is exactly why we fear of coming forward. Your judgments, you accusing us of being a liar, you making us feel like we deserve it, all because you don’t like us.
So next time you hear of things like this happening to someone, remove all preconceived notions of this person and ask yourself how you would react if this person was your sister, your daughter, or your mother, and people said those things about them.
Someone you know has been assaulted, abused, or harassed. Possibly all three. I guarantee it.
If a woman in your life has heard you call ANY other woman a liar for speaking out, or heard you say a woman deserved it, I can say with almost a 100% guarantee they won’t ever tell you if it happens to them.
Don’t ever be the reason they feel they can’t speak up.