I want you to imagine something (abuse survivors are exempt from this exercise):

You have just been raped. You want to be a “good” rape victim, so you follow protocol. You go directly to the hospital.

You do not eat, drink, shower, change clothes, or go to the bathroom.
You get to the hospital. If you are lucky, it was a quick trip. If you are lucky, there is a victim’s advocate present to provide you with support through the ordeal you are about to endure. If you are lucky, you are able to get your rape kit examination quickly.
Either way, you are not supposed to eat, drink, shower, or disturb your clothes until you’ve had the exam. After all, your body is a crime scene, and a crime scene can not be disturbed.
Your rape kit exam may take hours to conclude. During the exam, your skin will be swabbed, your pubic hair will be combed, your orifices will be penetrated and examined and swabbed for your assailant’s DNA.
If you are lucky, there will be a victim’s advocate present to provide you with support through this experience. Many people are not lucky.
Many people get their rape kit examinations performed by providers who are busy and have terrible bedside manner, who pressure victims into examinations that they are not interested in and feel traumatized by.
Even in the best of circumstances, however, a rape kit exam is at best uncomfortable and at worst traumatic.
Once you have had your rape kit exam, you are now free to shower, to put on new clothes, to eat, to drink, to try to get back to your life. But now a new ordeal awaits you: the decision of whether or not to report your assault.
You don’t have to report your assault immediately — in many states rape kits are held for weeks or even years, to give survivors time to make up their minds — but again, let’s say you’re a “good” victim so you decide to report immediately.
What people often don’t realize is that in criminal cases, the victim is not a part of the prosecution — this isn’t you suing your rapist — but instead merely a witness. The state is the prosecution, you are merely evidence in their case.
Maybe that seems like a minor distinction, but it’s not. Even in the best of circumstances, even when the police believe you and respect you and the prosecution fights on your behalf, you are not an active party in your own rape case.
No one is doing anything on your behalf. You do not get a say in how the proceedings progress. You are merely there to be examined, to be poked and prodded and considered as the judge and jury decide if you actually seem like a rape victim.
One of the biggest traumas of sexual assault is the experience of having your agency taken away, of becoming, not a person, but an object to be contorted to fulfill another person’s desires. The entire rape reporting and prosecution process *repeats that dynamic*.
Again, you may get lucky. You may have a rape kit examiner who cautiously and therapeutically conducts the exam, helping to restore a sense of agency. You may have police and prosecutors who work to keep you involved, who ask you for your opinion, who give you a sense of agency.
But those experiences have to be intentional, because those experiences are directly counter to the form and function of how the criminal justice system views rape victims: as a crime scene, as evidence, as an object.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give you some statistics at this point, so here’s a graph from @RAINN. Even after you go through all of that trauma, the chance of your rapist getting arrested or convicted are *slim*. A graph from RAINN looking at what happens to perpetrators in rape cases. Out of 1000 cases, 310 are reported to the police, 57 are arrested, 11 cases go to prosecutors, 7 get a felony conviction, and 6 get incarcerated.
And that rape kit you went through so much stress and trauma to have collected? Hundreds of thousands of those sit in storage, untested. endthebacklog.org/backlog/what-r…
If you just been through a major trauma, and you knew that being a “good” victim meant extending and reliving that trauma for hours, days, weeks, and potentially years, at the end of which you would be unlikely to see anything even remotely resembling “justice” what would you do?
I certainly wouldn’t report.

And until we fix the system and create something that helps restore agency to survivors, rather than repeatedly stripping it away, I don’t see why anyone would.
Oh, and in case using a hashtag gets more people to read and understand the horrors of the sexual assault reporting process, consider this thread my lengthy contribution to #WhyIDidntReport
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