This morning I received the BBC update that Bill Cosby will stand trial on charges of sexual assault. He is accused of drugging and molesting Andrea Constand, although more than forty other women came forward with similar accusations. I don’t know any of these women’s stories, but I am glad to see that justice is being served with a trial for rape. What I do want to know about is…why does it take so long for a rape victim to come forward?
In the News
Barbara Bowman, for example, one of the accusing rape victims stated in The Washington Post (November 13, 2014) that she received a dismissive response from others so she was convinced that no one would listen to her. In the Independent news article on November 20, 2014 written by Tim Walker, it stated that some of Cosby’s accusers remained silent because they felt intimidated, ashamed, and scared. One in particular, named Dickinson, stated that she was afraid of being labelled a slut or a whore sleeping her way to the top.
I can tell you from my own personal experience of being sexually assaulted twice, once at the age of 12 just after I entered grade 8 at McNicoll Junior High in Penticton, B.C. and again at 16 when I was at Pen-High, that getting sexually assaulted whether by a high profile individual, a white-collar or some blue-collar individual does not make you feel or do anything differently. The reaction is still the same!
I came forward regarding the rapes when I was about 43 years old. I reported the incidents to the West Vancouver police since I lived in that community at the time, and a case file was open at the Penticton RCMP branch. It was about the time when my two youngest children just moved away to attend university. It took me, from the first assault, 30 years before I came forward. I was busy with my coaching and counselling practice and studying psychology part-time. It was also at the time when my own therapy was coming to an end, and, honestly, I believe that is was all the inner work that I did that freed me to come forward and finally reveal the truth of what happened.
So why did it take me, now a rape survivor, so long to come forward? Initially, I was embarrassed, ashamed, and humiliated. I felt like an idiot that I didn’t fight my perpetrators off. I felt weak and stupid. I felt as though it was my fault. At the same time, I didn’t speak up about the rape because when I spoke up about the childhood sexual abuse at the age of 5, my voice was ‘slammed’ down. I was told I was a liar and I should never speak of such a thing again! So, then, why would I speak up about a rape that happened 7 years later. My belief was that no one would believe me, and then I would be accused that it was my fault. Did I need to feel anymore shallow than I already did? No. So I kept this secret for many years. Absolutely not telling another soul. Over the years, I kept it so far down my throat that even I almost started to believe it didn’t happen, but I started gagging on it. My behavior, my choices, and my emotional reactions were a dead give away that something was wrong inside.
Still, what made me finally come forward and talk about the rape? It was for my children, and I finally realized that it was the ‘right’ thing to do. Through the work of healing, it took me a few years before I felt strong enough to endure the back lash that may come with speaking up. Healing was my preparation, and it made me strong because I finally began to see how distorted my way of thinking was regarding the sexual assaults and the chronic childhood sexual abuse. This distortion, me believing that it was my fault, had to be cleared up. Now I put the blame where it is supposed to be rather than on myself.
It may take a long time for a rape victim to come forward regarding her or his sexual assault experience, but by taking so long to come forward after the heinous crime has been committed does not make the story invalid! Every woman or man has their own reasons for coming forward at a later date. Do not persecute them once again for how long it has taken them to come forward.