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“The Police Did Nothing”: Anika Noni Rose Opens Up About Being Assaulted on a Plane

Anika Noni Rose spoke up for the first time about her sexual assault on Thursday on SiriusXM’s Make It Plain. The actress told host Mark Thompson, “I have never spoken of this, but I will say this out loud now: I was assaulted on a plane last year. And I haven’t been able to get this person’s name; they won’t give me the name of the person.” Rose’s story is upsetting and shows why the #MeToo movement is necessary. Women who come forward about assault or harassment are often unfairly criticized for not being perfect victims: they didn’t act a certain way, they didn’t fight back enough, or they didn’t speak out at the right time.

Rose’s story shows that someone can do everything right and still not get justice. Her story shows why women so often don’t report their assaults and speak out in other ways.

The actress describes waking up on the airplane to a stranger assaulting her, to which she notified the flight attendant. While Rose first passed up the airline crew’s offer to stop the plane because she didn’t want to inconvenience passengers and thought the man was going to sleep, she changed her mind after the man made “out of the box” comments. After his behavior escalated, Rose told the crew to turn the plane around. He was removed from the plane.

However, Rose found that, despite everything, her attacker has not been identified or investigated. “There’s a Freedom of Information Act you’re supposed to be able to get people’s names and I made a report right then with the FBI, and they dropped it. Dropped the case.”

“It is not the definition of rape that we think of, because we think of rape as intercourse. Rape is really beyond intercourse, when we look at what the definition is,” Rose said. “It doesn’t make it less of a violation. It’s a different type of violation, but it doesn’t make it less shocking—I’ll say that.” She continues:

“It’s a really tough thing to deal with when something happens to you and you do everything that you’re supposed to do and somebody somewhere decides, well, ‘We’re not going to go forward with this. We’re not gonna look into this any further.’ And you’re walking around in circles asking for information that is owed you. The amount of care that is taken to protect perpetrators is vastly heavier and stronger than the amount of care that is taken to protect victims.”

The interview is a difficult one to listen to, and you can hear in Rose’s voice what an impact the incident had on her, and the restraint she demonstrated thinking that she would be able to get justice from the law. “I was shaking. I was so upset and so hurt and angry. Like, angry. I wanted to punch that man,” she says. Rose explains that she chose not to direct that anger violently because, she “knew that that would take away from the story I had to tell, so that I had to hold in everything that I was feeling to be able to tell this story and be heard and taken seriously from the place I was in. It’s been … it’s interesting.”

Rose points out that while harassment in Hollywood is dominating the conversation, these things happen all the time to anyone. “I’m a woman asleep on a plane. I wasn’t dressed up, I wasn’t fancy … and somebody felt free to touch me in that moment,” she said. “You don’t have to be in Hollywood, you don’t have to be dressed up, you don’t have to be a siren. I was on a plane in a skull cap, looking like a kid, basically. And this person felt free to touch me.”

“I’m not finished,” says Rose, who says she has a picture of the man. The actress says she still wants to handle the incident legally. When asked how she’s coped with the assault, Rose spoke about the challenges she had getting on planes since. “I can honestly say that I have not done much with it. I made my report. I followed up with the police, like I was told to do. The police did nothing.”

(via E! Online, image: Starz)

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