When It Comes To Sexual Assault, #TheresNoPerfectVictim

02/04/2015 05:04 pm ET | Updated Feb 06, 2015

There is no such thing as a perfect rape victim.

People who report their experiences of sexual assault are subjected to constant questioning and scrutiny -- as if there is a certain way "real victims" should behave after being raped. In reality, people process trauma in myriad ways, and someone's reaction after being assaulted should not be used as "proof" that a rape didn't happen if it doesn't match up with the way society believes a victim "should" act.

Emma Sulkowicz, an activist who began carrying her mattress around Columbia's campus after the school refused to expel a student who she says raped her, has been vilified for contacting her rapist after he assaulted her -- apparently, her story is "less believable" because of it. Women who report that Bill Cosby assaulted them have been publicly criticized for not coming forward earlier.

In a Dec. 1 essay for TIME, Susan J. Brison highlighted the issues with how we treat rape victims when she explained why she reported one instance of being raped -- when she was assaulted by a stranger at knifepoint, beaten and left for dead -- but not another, when she was raped by an acquaintance in her dorm room.

"One was the best kind of rape, as far as my credibility as a victim was concerned," Brison wrote. "The other was the worst."

Today, feminist activists Julie Zeilinger and Wagatwe Wanjuki started the hashtag #TheresNoPerfectVictim to discuss the pressure survivors face, and the ways in which detractors try to discredit them.

Here's what you need to know about rape victims, because there's no such thing as a "perfect" one:

Victims don't always immediately call 911. They may not report their assault at all, or choose to speak with the media instead of law enforcement.

Victims don't always cry or appear visibly upset.


Victims may not remember all the details of their assault.


Victims may have been involved with their assailant before the assault.


Victims may have been involved with their assailant after the assault.


Just because someone was drinking or doing drugs at the time of their assault doesn't mean they were "asking for it:"

This online conversation is a brutal look at how society treats rape victims -- and explains why so many victims are unwilling to come forward.

It's time for a change.

Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.

Also on HuffPost:

'Surviving In Numbers': Stories Of Sexual Assault Survivors
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