Letter: Reporting rape is usually hopeless. Believe survivors.
By a senior at Michigan State University.
The author choose to remain anonymous because of the content of this letter.
When I was raped freshman year, my resident assistant asked me if I wanted her to report it. I was so scared. I couldn’t imagine the ramifications it would have on my life and I told her not to report.
Two years later, I sat outside my old dorm building and I had an epiphany. I ran into him around campus frequently and knew who he was. I knew I wanted him to receive some sort of punishment. According to my therapist, it would only be fair because of the suffering he caused me. Rape is a crime and I was fully in my rights to report it.
I reported it to MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity and MSU Police, spending months reliving my pain and trauma. After I finally had a meeting scheduled with the prosecutor’s office, I had so much hope. I went to meet him, ready to speak my truth.
He tried to put me at ease and said he believed me. He was sure I was traumatized because I was taken advantage of. However, because of the way the law was written and its technicalities, he told me he couldn’t press charges on my rapist. The Michigan rape laws require either force/coercion or incapacitation. I couldn’t prove either since I was unable to remember most of the night.
He is clearly not going to come forward with the truth. Since these requirements couldn’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, that is why the prosecuting attorney could not press charges. It happened. We all knew it did, but the law did not work in my favor.
My experience is one that many, many people will also experience in their time in college. When women and men go through this, they often keep it to themselves and choose not to report it to the police or their university. Even when they choose to report, the result is often excruciating.
I felt like I was punched in that moment. All of my pain was for nothing. He would never see the inside of a courtroom, and would get away with everything.
This is, sadly, a reality for many survivors who chose to report. Countless stories like mine end the same way. This doesn’t mean our assaults didn’t happen. They did, and we deserve to be believed. We deserve justice, but justice will not come for us. Our rapists will walk free like mine does every day of his life at MSU.
As a campus, we need to believe survivors, whether they come forward and report their assaults or not. If somebody comes to you with their story, believe them. We need to stand by survivors. We need to support our brothers and sisters. We need to do better because we owe it to them.