I’m not really a fan of “and the victim should go to the police” routine. I’ve seen it play out in person.
When I was in High School, my best friend was raped by a similarly aged family member. She told me many months after the fact. She was depressed, suicidal, and suffering from a host of physical ailments brought on by stress. She didn’t want to tell anyone. I convinced her to tell the school’s counselor, who in turn either convinced her to tell the police or who told the police herself (I believe it was the former, but I am not certain).
The whole thing shredded her.
The police didn’t believe her, told her so, and insisted that there must be something “wrong” with her (like an STD) that was causing her to make up such lies about an upstanding young man. She asked that the police wait until after a school break to tell her parents, and they ignored her pleas and told them right before the break, leaving her isolated with parents who (while they didn’t react as badly as she thought they might) viewed her as irreparably damaged. Her family splintered between those who believed her and those who did not. Afterwards she expressed that she wished she had not gone to the police; that doing so had only made things much, much worse. And I felt horrible, because I had convinced her to go to tell. I, who had bought into the narrative that You Must Involve the Authorities, believed I encouraging her to do what was right. In the end, she just ended up feeling more victimized and violated. And, to all the nits who are thinking, “Well, yes, she may have been more traumatized, but that’s the price we have to pay to keep him from raping another woman!” let me be absolutely clear: the rapist was not subjected to any kind of sanctions at all. He spent no time in jail, was not charged with anything, was not held accountable by his family or peers, and in general suffered no ill effect. Nothing that we did in any way limited his ability to rape again.
Even in hindsight I don’t know what the best course of action would have been. I don’t know if my friend was better off in the long term for having the assault brought out into the open; she stopped being willing to hang out with me soon after this had died down a bit, so I couldn’t even ask her. But what I do know is that if I had it to do over again, I would listen to what she wanted to do more and tell her what to do less. If the police were going to be involved, it was her decision to make, not mine. I didn’t have to deal with the fallout of what happened the way she did. It was her life, her trauma; it should have been her decision. I regret that she had to suffer so much for me to come to this realization.