In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Scream Queens actress Abigail Breslin recently posted an Instagram that read: “You are not obligated to have sex with someone that you’re in a relationship with. Dating is not consent. Marriage is not consent.” In her caption, Breslin wrote that she knew her assailant and accompanied it with the hashtag #breakthesilence.
The majority of the actress’ followers offered kind words of support and commended her strength and courage. Breslin’s post also inspired others to share their own stories in the comments section. Many women expressed that they, too, had known their attackers.
Of course, it’s impossible to speak publicly about rape without being criticized or branded a liar — and one commenter made the wildly inaccurate and offensive statement that “reported rapes are the only rapes that count.”
In response, Breslin schooled the rape denier with a new Instagram post. She explained why she didn’t report her rape, and the reasons will sound painfully familiar to the many survivors who didn’t pursue criminal charges.
In the aftermath of the rape, Breslin was “in complete shock and total denial” — an extremely common reaction. Furthermore, she was in a relationship with her attacker and feared she wouldn’t be believed or that he’d harm her further if she spoke out. Breslin also explained that she knew how “hurt” her family and friends would be, and she didn’t want to put them through that.
Breslin’s words are spot-on and they will undoubtedly provide comfort to the millions of survivors who didn’t press charges. Every single rape counts — whether or not it is reported or prosecuted is completely irrelevant. Furthermore, the majority of rapes do go unreported. According to RAINN, just 310 out of every 1,000 rapes are reported to police and only 11 out of 1,000 cases are referred to prosecutors. The most depressing statistic of all is that only six out every 1,000 rapists will spend a day in prison.
The justice system repeatedly fails rape victims, which is yet another reason why many survivors don’t report their assaults. Yes, it’s terrible to feel completely alone and ashamed — but many women and men fear they’ll be re-victimized by a system that is skeptical and judgmental of survivors. And, as Breslin points out, many of us simply believe that if we just try hard enough, we can successfully pretend the rape never occurred.
Unfortunately, this tactic doesn’t work — but finding our voices, speaking out when we’re ready, and providing other survivors with the message that they’re not alone can be an incredibly important part of the healing process.
Breslin’s powerful posts have had a major impact on her Instagram followers, and she responded to this rape-denying troll in the perfect manner.