This is more of a thinking aloud post, but I would like your thoughts. I need to talk this out, and while this was the major subject of therapy today– which I will post about later– I can’t be completely honest with Bea about it all.
My question today: what if? What if he has hurt someone else because I never told? What if he is hurting someone right now because I never told? What if he hurts someone tomorrow or next week or next month or next year, because I didn’t tell today?
But I can not tell. I don’t feel this need to punish him, to get “justice.” I just….what if he is hurting someone else?
Can I report anonymously to CPS? Would that make a difference? Bea suggested that I could call the police anonymously. Or that she could call CPS and keep my name out of it. None of that sounds like a terrible idea. It might be do-able.
Except…..and it is this except that I can not tell Bea. I just….I don’t know, but she won’t like this. So, except it’s a small town and people there will know him. If CPS is from each town or whatever, chances are they will know him and they won’t believe it. If I call the police in town, well….he is the police. He is the director of public safety. No one is going to believe me, much less investigate it. And whoever I talk to will probably tell him, and then he will know I told and no good can come of that.
So what am I supposed to do about this what if?
14 thoughts on “What if….?”
You can’t control what he does or does not do. Only he is in charge of his evil. What you can control is what you do to protect yourself. And if staying quiet, at least for now, is what keeps you safe, then that’s a certainty that probably outweighs unknown what ifs and uncertain outcomes if you did report.
Thank you. I am really conflicted about doing nothing, but it’s also what I know I need to do to feel safe. Feeling like that need is understood and supported does help a lot. 💟
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I agree, it’s not on you. I had exactly the same worry, that the psych nurse who assaulted me in my sleep has had access to sleeping/drugged/seriously mentally ill inpatients (who might not be believed if they told) for the past 33 years. But I will never report, for many reasons, and I have come to a point where I am okay with it not being my burden to bear.
DV, thank you for sharing this. It’s so much easier to feel understanding and compassion when looking at another’s situation. It helps to know I’m not alone in my need to stay quiet. 💕
I wanted to expand on my comment, which was dashed off very quickly at work. I wanted to tell you that I really, really get it.
The feeling of guilt was very strong at the beginning, just after I’d started to talk about what had happened and Dr L reframed it as sexual assault. Once the implications of that sunk in – namely that the guy could potentially have done the same thing to hundreds of vulnerable women because of the nature of his job – I felt so bad that I had never said anything, like anything that might have happened was my fault. I checked his nursing board registration info to see if there were any complaints or restrictions listed against his name (there weren’t), and I contacted my medical indemnifiers to ask their advice about reporting it, using the old “asking for a friend” technique (“I have this patient who disclosed to me …” etc) and they talked through some of the potential problems.
The more I thought about it, the more the risks of reporting seemed just too high: the guy was a respected health professional with a long history of volunteer work and multiple community service awards, and at that time it happened I was a troubled young adult. Who was going to believe me after 30+ years? Why had I not come forward before? There was plenty of evidence that I had never treated him any differently afterward (there’s a photo which particularly grosses me out of him dressed as santa at the volunteer group family christmas party, with me sitting on his knee, 10 months after the assault).
I had no idea who I could trust. If people chose to believe him over me it could get really nasty – his father in law was a retired senior police officer, his sister in law was a lawyer. The friend I told recently whom I thought would be an independent ‘shoulder to cry on’ turned out to be enmeshed in a complex web of infidelity involving the guy’s wife and sister and had raised the possibility of my assault being linked to that.
If it got as far as going to court I would be ripped to shreds, especially if the issue of the sexual arousal I’d experienced got brought up (could they subpoena my therapy notes??), or the fact that I’d been sexually active at age 15. I knew exactly what it would feel like to be tverbally beaten to a pulp by a barrister – I’d gotten on the wrong side of a guy who was a criminal barrister a few years before this, over something fairly trivial, and he had verbally abused me on the phone for 45 minutes straight while I stood there frozen and literally unable to hang up, and afterwards I’d been ready to take the full blame for the thing which had made him angry and to dump the friends who had gotten me into that position, without any prompting from him whatsoever, just to appease him. Going to court over the assault would be a hundred times worse.
And then there’s the issue of people knowing. This guy works in the same tightly knit, gossipy profession I do. I’d end up with every single person I worked with knowing what he did to me, and any other aspects of my history which might be dredged up, like my suicide attempt. They would never see me quite the same again. All of the people I’d known in the volunteer group would know, because the gossip would spread llike wildfire there as well. At the time all of this initially came up I was still in contact with the re-enactment group as well, and this would have potentially provided further fuel for the bullying.
Maybe – and that’s big maybe – if I heard of other people coming forward I would dare to break my silence, but honestly – I don’t think it’s worth the damage it would cause.
In many ways my involvement with the medical board chaperone review was my way of speaking up and being heard and believed (by someone other than my therapist) without actually having to name manes. It gave me the sense that I was actually doing something concrete to protect people from being sexually assaulted by predators in the health care profession in the future, even if it wasn’t exactly the same circumstances as my experience.
All of this is to say that I know how extremely complicated it can be, and that you absoloutely have to put your own safety first. And even if there is never any resolution or justice around your experiences with Kenny, there are options down the track to help heal the guilt in other ways, if it feels right for you to do that. Right now, I don’t think you’re anywhere near that point, it’s still all too fresh and traumatic.
I know that was a very long comment, but I hope it helps ❤
I completely get your dilemma and feeling of responsibility. But like others have said, this is not your burden. You only have responsibility for you.
It is such a mess in my head right now. It’s hard to feel like my only job is to worry about me and everything else is on him. It helps to have my feelings and needs validated and understood. Thank you. ❣️
Can also relate. I know the people who hurt me could be hurting others because even when I spoke out nobody listened to me. I try and use my adult brain to remind myself that my responsibility is to myself. I also know for for me I feel a huge sense of safety knowing that not one of them know where I am, what I look like or who I am. I’m not sure I’m willing to risk that when there isn’t any actual evidence for a prosecution . I totally hear you though, this causes me a lot of pain and a lot of guilt.
I’m sorry you can relate to this as well. I am sad— and grateful— that so many of us struggle with this. I like the idea of using your adult brain to help look at this logically. 💕
It’s so hard to know what to do. I think, for a lot of us, the same feeling goes through our minds.
I don’t have much advice because I carry the same worry and have no clue as to what you should or shouldn’t do.
Just wanted to let you know that I understand how you feel. ❤
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Thank you for sharing that you carry the same worry. Hugs. ❣️
There is a reason that sexual assault is so under-reported. There are many reasons, actually, and others here have already mentioned many of them. Our legal system, our social services, our culture have all been woefully incapable of responding with any sort of compassion and injustice, and some women who do report say the experience was at least as traumatizing as the assault itself.
That said, reporting makes a lot of sense for some victims / survivors. It can sometimes be healing or empowering… but that is so individual. It depends on where a person is in her healing, how likely she is to be believed, what kind of support she is likely to receive. There is no rule that anyone should have to subject herself to more pain and suffering.
In this #metoo moment, you might find more support and validation than you expect. People are starting to wake up and realize that “nice” guys, men we respect in our communities, have done terrible things. What would it be like for you if you WERE believed? If Kenny DID have to face consequences for his actions?
I ask that question only because you also asked “what if.” By no means am I encouraging you to tell (or not to tell). That is a profoundly personal decision, and you have every right in the world to do what you need to do for your own health, safety and healing.
Last comment in a long response: only recently, in response to #metoo, have I started to give serious thought to the idea that my abusers may have hurt others. So I am beginning to ask myself these questions as well. It’s very, very complicated.
These are complicated questions aren’t they? I don’t have an easy answer. I’m not sure there is a right answer. What if I were believed? I don’t know. I really don’t. I read your comment, and couldn’t respond at that moment. I really have thought about it a lot since. What if? I just don’t know. It’s not an easy thing for me to imagine. It might be a good exercise, though. Maybe there will be another what if blog post in my future. ❤️