When I was drugged and raped my sophomore year at Yale, I should have been ready to speak out. After all, I didn’t have to worry that coming forward would incite gang violence, that male relatives would beat me up, or that no one would notice if I disappeared. My personality should have protected me, too; I always have been confident and opinionated. And then there is the fact that I am a writer: I make my living by communicating with others.
And yet, when my assault happened, I did nothing. I did not press charges. I did not write an op-ed. I did not go to a Take Back the Night demonstration. I did not even tell my family.
As soon as rape enters any kind of public discussion, so does the backlash. Often this backlash involves questioning how common sexual assault really is — invariably a setup, in a kind of confused calculus, for asking whether the bigger issue isn’t actually false rape accusations. The latest example is George Will’s argument in the Washington Post that, on campuses, victimhood has become “a coveted status.” Will scoffs at rape statistics and suggests that women are over-reporting “sexual assaults” (quotation marks his) to attain the “privileges” that come with being a victim.
Over the years, more than a dozen female friends have told me they were raped. Not one of us reported it. None of us went public. All that despite, apparently, the temptation of that “coveted status.”