SPECIAL REPORT: As a licensed mental health professional who has been advocating for survivors of sexual violence for the last 25 years, I have watched many victims struggling with what they need to do to heal. It can take years just to tell another person you’ve been victimized, let alone notifying the police. It happened to me. I am still in a state of shock, but for the first time I am speaking out publicly about the fact that I was assaulted this past July.
[NOTE: This is a modified version of a newsletter item Vicki Polin wrote called: “Thirty-three days”]
Because my case is currently in litigation, I am not at liberty to go into some of the details of the assault. The reason I am speaking out now is because I feel it is important to share the fact that it took me 33 days to make a police report.
The offender was a relative of a dear and trusted friend, a relative of someone whom I looked up to and respected and someone who has been like a father to me. I don’t know what I was thinking, yet I didn’t do what I would have expected of me… I was confused by my own hesitation to make an immediate call to the police. Instead I found myself taking care of the offender’s family instead of taking care of my own personal needs.
Finally I consulted with several different professionals who are also victim advocates, none of whom had a connection to my personal life or my community.
It took 33 days before I found the strength to make a police report. I was fortunate to have a friend with me when I did this. The offender was charged with second-degree assault and fourth-degree sexual assault.
I was fortunate to have a group of friends with me the day that the case went to trial, as their presence gave me the strength to do what I needed to do. The man who assaulted me was found guilty on both charges.
The reason I am making this public now is because I want others to realize that if it took someone who has been advocating for survivors for a quarter of a century thirty-three days to make a police report, it makes perfect sense that it could, and often would take others much longer.
When a boy or girl, man or woman are sexually harassed, abused, assaulted or violated in any other way, their lives are forever changed on many different levels.
The victimized individual will have to deal with issues of trust, safety and security. The sad reality is that once a survivor starts talking about what happened, there is a strong possibility that friendships will be lost, sometimes employment, as well as connections with the synagogue, the community — and, in some cases, family members.
As a result, there are many different factors one has to consider when trying to understand how and why a survivor will or might respond to a particular situation.
Both adults and children who are survivors need people in their lives who are unbiased, without an agenda, and who are not connected to their personal lives, community or that of their offender(s) — and who can provide them with a safe place to open up and share their experience, thoughts and feelings so that they are able to come to a place where they can choose for themselves what to do next.
This is especially true since the ability to make choices was taken away from them by their offender during the time that they were being victimized. A survivor needs to take back the control and the ability of deciding for himself or herself.
Each survivor has to decide what is best. And yet it is vitally important for each individual who has been sexually victimized to know that he or she has choices. With accurate information, the survivor (and/or family members in cases of child sexual abuse) will be able to make an educated decision.
If you have been a victim of a sex crime, you are not alone.
You are not a bad person, and you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
The shame and blame belong totally to your assailant, as well as with anyone who attempted to cover up the abuse. I want to encourage everyone who has been sexually victimized to make police reports — even if it takes you much more then thirty-three days to do so.
Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC is the founder and director of The Awareness Center, which is the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with over twenty-five years of experience working in the sexual trauma field.
The Awareness Center, Inc. (the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault)
P.O. Box 65273, Baltimore, MD 21209