Taking control of 'her' story: Great Barrington sexual assault survivor woman speaks on her essay
Editor's note: This story addresses the sensitive subject of sexual assault, and some details may be distressing to some readers. Please use discretion in reading.
GREAT BARRINGTON — Anna Rogovoy has been hurt in a way nobody should ever be, but she's neither too scarred nor scared to share her story. Prior to sharing her personal account on Aug. 22 via the popular online publisher "Medium," she tweeted: "Proud to say I've officially made it 365 days without being raped. More on that here:"
In her essay, she doesn't name names, but she does cite that the incident took place in her hometown of Great Barrington.
She doesn't blame herself or her attackers, or the bystanders who saw them in a local bar. But she does dare to pose the honest questions that are running through the minds of many pondering the international pandemic of rape and sexual assault, which continues to threaten public safety, public health, and personal and public integrity.
"If a girl goes to a bar alone, what is the threat? Is it the bar? Is it the girl," Rogovoy writes. "Is it how exhausted she is after pushing herself for years to become professionally and artistically successful, fiscally stable, and aesthetically appealing? Is it the drinks, or the drugs that might be added to the drinks? Who or what is responsible for the damage to or danger of the girl, when she regains consciousness in an unknown location with men whose names she doesn't know? Is it the men? Is it an economy in which women make 79 cents to a man's dollar, reinforcing a value and power dynamic that tells men that they are superior to women? Is it the moment that the other people at the bar look away and shrug, reassure themselves that nothing could be going wrong, the girl seems fine, and besides we're in the number one small town in America for chrissakes!"
Anna Rogovoy is not alone in what happened to her. According to one of the most recent fact sheets published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 59 men in the United States reported in 2014 that they had been raped at some time in their lives, between childhood, adolescence or adulthood.
What Rogovoy has confirmed, however, is that she is sometimes alone in her stance that being raped is wrong.
She said about her account that "in making the decision to talk about it, or post about it, I remember sitting around with it, feeling so scared — how would people react?"
When she did hit "post" and watched in the coming days as her essay gained some 9,000 views on Medium and hundreds more views and shares via Facebook, Rogovoy was astounded. She went from not telling anyone for months to having a whole small city's worth of people listening and talking about rape and sexual assault.
"It was completely overwhelming," said Rogovoy, who said she found an outpouring of support from both loved ones and strangers. "I did get some negative response which was hard to deal with."
One such response came from a woman who told her that if Rogovoy's rapists strike again that it's her fault because she hasn't yet pressed charges — a step the 25-year-old woman is still pondering.
Statistically and historically, people charged with rape and sexual assault face minimal prosecution.
According to federal data analyzed by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), an American is sexually assaulted every 109 seconds, and every 8 minutes, that victim is a child. But only 6 out of every 1,000 perpetrators will end up in prison.
RAINN also reports the various reasons why people do and do not report crimes of sexual violence. The top three reasons for reporting include because the person reporting wanted to protect the household or victim from further crimes by the offender, to stop the incident or prevent recurrence or escalation, or to improve police surveillance or they believed they had a duty to do so.
Why do people choose not to report? The top three survey responses from victims included because they feared retaliation, they believed the police would not do anything to help, or they believed it was "a personal matter."
Reporting her rape in the form of a personal essay has been Rogovoy's first choice in taking any greater form of action regarding her attack. Her first, and one of the biggest steps, she said, was beginning to talk about it with loved ones, before going public.
Rogovoy, as she puts it, is not an anonymous person in Great Barrington, nor in her own professional sphere of being a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based dance and creative artist. She is the daughter of noted publisher and journalist, Seth Rogovoy, and Karin Watkins, both whom Anna gave the essay to read a week before she published it.
"I had talked to them earlier about [the incident], which was difficult, probably the hardest part of the whole thing, and also talked with my brother. [Their response] was great. You know, you hear all these horror stories about kids telling parents about the troubles they're facing and [the family members] react poorly. I had a little bit of anxiety but they've been so supportive," Rogovoy said.
Both parents went so far as to share and comment on Anna's story via Facebook. Seth Rogovoy posted an excerpt from the essay and described Anna as "My brilliant, talented, strong, amazing daughter — the one I love."
Watkins posted it a few days later and wrote: "It's taken me a little while to share this essay posted on Monday by my beloved Anna, because I am her mother, and it's just too huge for my heart ... There's SO much I want to say. 10,000 things I want to tell you about my daughter, who is NOBODY'S VICTIM, who not only survived this horror, but then spent every day of the last year healing herself and wrestling this atrocity to the ground, with her foot firmly on its neck ..."
Anna Rogovoy will carry her story with her for the rest of her life, but she says she also feels a bit more liberated from it.
"For me, my shame in not talking about it was not productive," she said. Writing and talking about it has been her way of taking control of the situation.
"It was very much my choice, what I wanted to do," said Rogovoy. "Also I think that there's not a ton of support for these kinds of situations. There's not a lot of people that get involved in legal processes because of fear. The best thing I could do was to put words out there to help other people find the words they wanted, to help other people, hopefully, navigate an aspect of something that happened to them that felt traumatic, and really just to bring it home. I felt that was important too because this happened to me in a place where I not only feel safe but people know me."
Read Anna Rogovoy's essay at goo.gl/F56xUZ