The short answer? She didn’t.
Growing up, I had a creepy, handsy cross country coach who made all the girls on the team uncomfortable. For months, we all talked about it, but no one did anything. I told friends and the boys on the team. Finally, I went to my mother. We ended up talking to the vice principal who made it clear this wasn’t anything he cared about. The coach was only removed from the team after massive, prolonged pushback from my mother. If not for that, he’d have continued to coach our team for the remainder of the season. He still coached the girls basketball team in the winter, though, and also stayed on as a special ed teacher until, years later, he was caught abusing one of his students.
Here’s the thing, besides this article and one other I wrote about this asshole, I haven’t spoken much about this incident, or any of the other men who have made me uncomfortable or touched me when I gave them no permission. But I can guarantee you that if I saw one of these fuckers running for political office or up for a Supreme Court appointment, I’d be on the phone to any media outlet who would listen. I would shout what happened from the rooftops. And people hearing my story would likely wonder:
This was years ago. Why did she wait so long to report?
Well, I didn’t. I just happened to be born female in a world that neither values women and girls nor believes their claims of assault, cruelty, or rape when reported.
I can’t count the times a friend has told me about an incident in confidence that ends with: I told my mother/father/uncle/aunt/friend/teacher and wasn’t believed.
It happens ALL THE TIME.
And sometimes you are believed, but you’re shamed into not telling anyone else. Think of his family. His future. Are you sure you didn’t ask for it? Were you drinking? What were you wearing? Did you say no forcefully enough? And on and on.
The grown ass vice principal sat across from 16 year old me and had the balls to tell me he hugged students all the time after I told him this coach continued to touch me after I asked him repeatedly to stop. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d gone to my mother and she hadn’t believed me. Or, worse, if she’d believed me but told me it was no big deal. Actually, I do know what I would have done — I’d have sucked it up and let it go.
And that’s society’s message to women and girls: suck it up and let it go. It’s not a big deal. Boys will be boys. Locker room talk. He’s only pushing you because he likes you. Over and over again from cradle to grave. Women are discounted and their experiences minimized. We’re told to be grateful for male attention, no matter the form, no matter how unwanted.
So, I don’t ask what took so long for a woman to come forward. I know that, in some way not evident to the general public, she already told her story to someone. Not every unwanted ass slap and rape attempt results in a criminal conviction or police report. For some reason, we as a society equate that to the objective fact of the incident’s occurrence. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. These things happen every day, and no one is brought to justice. No one is prosecuted. Women and girls suck it up. They let it go.
The next time you start to wonder aloud about why a woman waited five, ten, or twenty years to report an assault, just STFO instead. Because speaking up is hard when you live in a culture working every day to silence you. Talking becomes a revolutionary act, and the punishment for opening your mouth is severe. Remember that before you heap on scorn and disbelief. Just listen. Hear her. And believe her.