I was sexually assaulted when I was 17, but my mind blocked it out. I dissociated twice during the assault, and it took me months to even realize that what happened to me "counted." I was forced to perform oral sex on a guy. He had no weapon, he didn't hit me, but I said no and he didn't listen. I've had people compare what happened to me to a guy "buying his girlfriend jewelry."
Because no one in my life seemed to believe that my story made me a survivor, I didn't report. I didn't report until I was shamed into it by a friend's grandma and coworker. "How will you feel if he does this to someone else? What if he already has?" I couldn't get her voice out of my head, for months.
Four and a half years after my assault, I walked into the police precinct in the town I was assaulted in alone and I reported. I was taken into an interview room with two male uniformed officers who made it clear through glances to each other and their body language that they didn't believe what happened to me was truly a sexual assault. Again, I didn't "count."
You matter, your story matters, and you count.
One officer stepped away and called the local Special Victims Unit who refused to come take a statement because my case wasn't "urgent." I remember sitting in the chair, making myself as small as possible and just sobbing. I had to reiterate about five times that I knew that it wasn't going to go anywhere, it would never see the inside of a courtroom, before they believed that I wasn't in this to try to put him in jail for what he did to me. I just wanted a paper trail in case he did it to someone else.
I was told that I'd hear from a detective on Monday (I reported on a Friday). Monday came and went, weeks, months, years passed and I didn't hear anything from anyone. I called nearly three years later for information and after being scolded by the dispatcher for not calling sooner, I was hung up on. I was devastated. I sat in my car and sobbed, again. They made it perfectly clear over the years that my story didn't count, and that it didn't matter.
It took me a long time to be able to proudly say that I'm a survivor. To be able to share my story in print and in person to people to help others whose stories may not be what you think of when you hear sexual assault. Every person's "no" matters and should be respected. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you waited 20 years to report, if you reported immediately after, or if you never report. It doesn't matter if your assault fit the definition of what most of society believes qualifies as sexual assault. If you said no and your partner didn't listen and kept going, that's sexual assault. And you matter, your story matters, and you count. You're no less of a survivor than anyone else.
If you or a loved one are in need of any help, there are resources available, including links to national hotlines.