Sigh. Another day, another rape controversy, right? This week, comedian and Inside Amy Schumer writer Kurt Metzger found himself in hot water with all of us hyper-reactionary Social Justice Warriors when he went on a social media tirade, claiming that internet “lynch mobs” and vigilante justice are now taking the place of going to the police in the wake of sexual assault.
All of this started after several women came forward to the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) and claimed they had been sexually assaulted by fellow improv comedian Aaron Glaser. The UCB ran an internal investigation, and found the claims credible. Thus, they decided to ban Glaser for life. You know, similar to how women might approach an employer about sexual harassment at the office. Anyway, once word started getting around about Glaser, a few other comedy clubs also banned the comic. Glaser denied the accusations in now-deleted Facebook posts and called the bans and subsequent public outcry a “witch hunt.”
In comes Metzger, the bold “truthteller” that he is. He posted several Facebook and Twitter updates, railing on “rape trial by social media.” According to Kurt, there is only one “correct” way to deal with rape — by going immediately to the police. If you don’t go to the police, you apparently forfeit your right to speak about your rape, or to do anything to make your workplace or your community more comfortable and safe for women. I’m not going to give his rhetoric a place here on my blog, because it was intentionally inflammatory and hateful, and obviously meant to draw more ears to his podcast. If you’re interested in reading his incoherent rantings that started the controversy, you can here, here, here, here, and here.
But it was this post that really bothered me:
Thank goodness for Kurt, because without him, how would we victims know what the “correct” response is after we are raped?
There are about a thousand reasons that a victim would not go to police. Three out of four rapes are committed by someone the victim knows (such as in the case of the UCB above), so going to the police is simply not a cut and dry response. What if it is someone in your family, or at your workplace, or on your sports team, or is a prominent member of your community? Then what? What if your rapist is significantly more powerful than you? What if you work two jobs and you cannot take time off from work to meet with the police all of the damn time? What if reporting your rapist could harm your career, or your family? What if your rapist is a super crafty and was able to make sure not to leave very much evidence for you to go to police with (my rapist dumped me in a bath tub after he raped me. Why would he do that? To erase evidence. I assume it wasn’t his first rodeo)? What if your survival mechanisms kick in and you accidentally erase some of your evidence by showering after the incident, to get the horrible feeling of violation off of you? What if you’ve had bad experiences with the police and don’t trust them? What if you DO try to press charges, but the police don’t take you seriously? Or tell you that pressing charges will be beyond difficult, and will probably produce little result? Then what? Are you to be blamed if, in your most vulnerable hour, you cannot fathom having the energy for such an undertaking?
It’s not exactly news that the deck is stacked against victims. Sexual assault is difficult to prove in most cases. And even if you have the evidence, there is also the very real possibility that your rape kit will never be tested. Hundreds of thousands of rape kits currently sit untested in this country, even though testing them could likely put many serial rapists behind bars. Mine was wrongfully discarded. I can only assume I am not alone.
Anyway, I couldn’t help myself — I responded to Metzger’s post, something I almost never allow myself to do. Surprisingly, despite the MRA demographic soaking up his endless rant (and gleefully sharing it on Reddit, probably), the response to my comment was actually really wonderful. So I decided to post it here. I hope it can be of help to educate those who think that reporting rape to the police is The Only Way to respond to deep, personal trauma. Even though I *did* go to police, if I’m being honest, I deeply regret doing so. It created a personal hell for me; one that has created ripple effects in my life even now. I am also not trying to discourage anyone from going to police after they are sexually assaulted. If you can handle the experience, and are willing to take one for the team, more power to you. If you cannot, you are not wrong or bad. You are surviving, and that is the most important thing. Always.
(One quick note before I re-post: I regret not including anything in my comment about the actual experience of going through the rape kit, which is extremely invasive and time-consuming. I think mine took 7 hours all together. Being poked, prodded, photographed, questioned and swabbed while you’re at your most exhausted and vulnerable is… not fun to say the least.)
At long last, here is my comment, the story of me going to police after I was raped:
“I went to the hospital a few hours after I was raped to get a rape kit. I wanted to do the right thing, and to prevent other women from being victimized by my rapist. I have to say, reporting my rape was an extremely traumatic experience and one that has lived in my nightmares as often as the rape itself. The nurse who checked me into the rape unit chastised me for drinking, and actually said the words “what did you expect?” in regards to my being assaulted.
In my first interview with the NYPD, the male officer prefaced our conversation by flat out telling me that the process of pressing charges would be long, grueling and would take a huge toll on my mental health. I was in college, so he said I would likely have to miss class and come down to the station often. He also said that there was little chance of success; that the most I could probably hope for was my rapist being labeled a “sex offender” but even then, it was a long shot. He told me all of this before my rape kit was tested, and before I told him ONE DETAIL about what happened to me. If reporting rape is the 100% correct thing to do as you believe, then why on earth would police officers be discouraging victims from going through the process? I’d speculate that it’s probably because it’s a hell of a lot of work for the police to investigate sexual assault, and for very little result.
Even though I felt discouraged, I insisted on moving forward. Soon after that, I got very ill from the medications the hospital put me on to prevent any possible STIs, and needed to take a break from my case. I decided to finish my semester, and forgo my winter break at home with my family so I could stay in the city and routinely meet with the NYPD. I called the hospital and the NYPD and told them that I would proceed with my case in a few months and would get in touch once finals were over in late December. The hospital said that with my permission, they would keep my rape kit for up to 5 years. I agreed.
In late December, I called the hospital, and they had no trace of my rape kit. It was gone. They told me there was nothing they could do; that it had probably been accidentally destroyed; that I could move forward with legal recourse against the hospital if I wanted to (“I don’t want money; I wanted to prevent my rapist from raping again”). So, without any evidence, I was left with no option but to drop my case.
Years later, that same hospital also sent me a letter saying my medical records at the hospital had been compromised (likely by identity thieves) and were in god knows whose hands. So, the details of my rape are out there, somewhere — isn’t that fun?! Reporting compounded my trauma tenfold, and I am still wading through the bullshit of my medical records being stolen today, 12 years later.
All of this is to say, I completely, utterly 100% understand why someone would not want to report sexual assault. There is no “correct” way to deal with rape as a victim. What you do while you are in survival mode is deeply personal, and often rooted in your specific neurobiology.
But what do I know? I can never seem to get my c**t out of my blog.”