Opinion: The very real fear of authorities when it comes to sexual harassment
When I was younger, I had a relationship with a man well into his twenties. Our relationship was extremely secretive and at the time I thought I was lucky and mature. It was not until years later that I realized I was actually manipulated and abused, and wanted to do something about it. I did not know exactly who to go to. I contemplated if I should talk to someone and who that could be. I decided to speak to a local officer in my town, and met up one day. I explained everything, how we met, what we did, how he treated me, and how he was at least 10 years older than me.
Despite this officer caring about me and the issue I presented, she told me the truth: no one would do anything. It does not matter that I was 12 when he asked me for nude pictures, it does not matter that he had described multiple sexual fantasies he had about me at 12 years old, it does not matter that he works at an elementary school with other vulnerable kids. My words had such little effect and I would probably be better off saying nothing.
This is something I have always carried with me. That on top of countless stories of abusers and rapists facing no legal penalty helped me realize that the law, and cops, do not care about me or people that have gone through what I have gone through.
Years passed and I faced a different experience. I was raped. I did not exactly know what to do at that moment. I did not want to believe that something like that could happen to me, especially not by someone I had trusted so much. After I came to terms with the fact, and began to heal from the experience, I knew that taking legal action would not be a part of my healing. I knew that what I had learned all those years ago was still true; No one would do anything.
I did not want to go to the cops, strip myself bare in front of them while telling them everything that happened to me, just for them to do nothing—or worse: ridicule me. I could not go to the people I hear stories about, like the police who cover up rape and charge the victims with crimes. I could not go to the people who would not do anything. So I did not.
Story after story comes out detailing the ways cops have pressure victims, coerced victims, destroyed rape kits, fail to interview suspects, and so much more. These stories contributing to my fear that seems anything but irrational are also stories that sometimes seem so far away.
Now I am a college Sophomore living in a small town, at an even smaller campus, where I feel like I know everyone I pass. I live in the same small town where a (now ex) sheriff’s commander lives. That same ex-commander, while still serving on the force, found it appropriate to post multiple photos on his public Facebook account of dolls in multiple positions, some of which depict violence of women.
I live in a town where the same person I should trust with my safety mock the experiences of me and so many others. Although I have already known this for what feels like my whole life, I am scared.
I am scared because he was not fired. I am scared because he chose to resign due to the backlash he faced. I am scared that the other people in power found it appropriate to keep him on the force. I am scared because time and time again we, as victims and survivors of rape, are failed not only by our society but by our legal system and those who work in it.
It is scary living in a world where you believe early on that you do not have support when you are violated. It is scary having fears that the adults around you, the ones you should trust, are the ones that are going to hurt you. It is scary thinking that the authorities will fail to protect you from your abusers and see your problems as a joke.
But the scariest part is being right about it.