Dear fellow dudes (and a few others):
"Why didn't you report it at the time?" is a rape culture script.
These rape culture scripts act like a well choreographed dance. I say X; rape culture counters with Y. Like how anonymous reporters are never credible and named ones "just want fame/attention"––conveniently tying up ALL reporters with automatic, predetermined levels of incredulity. Move and countermove are all part of the dance.
"Why didn't you report it sooner?" is played like a "counterspell" in a collectable card game when dismissing any accusations over a certain length of time (as if the ones made the next day are taken any more seriously). It is merely THE script that gets used to dismiss any accusations older than a few days. (Just like "this will ruin their future" gets used to dismiss accusations from last night.) It joins victim blaming about clothing choices, citing prior promiscuity, pointing to intoxication, and sudden vigilant concern about a legal burden of proof (which is, unsurprisingly, comically impossible to achieve) in saying whatever it takes to blame and ignore survivors rather than their rapists.
Rape culture ignores dismissals. It ignores social censure. It ignores the church that covers it up. It ignores the family that sweeps it under the rug. It ignores the good ol' boys who simply say "He'd never do that!" It ignores an apathetic criminal justice system. It ignores the friends who turn on the reporter. It ignores how many rapists are convicted and still serve no time. It ignores death threats against the reporter. It ignores the victim blaming. It ignores the shame.
Rape culture ignores everything about what it means to report and about what those who do go through. Every. Single. Time.
The only thing someone is revealing about themselves if they ever ever Ever **EVER** use "Why didn't they say anything at the time?" is that they consciously ignored every single story that survivors took the time and energy and revisited trauma to share. Asking that question is the opposite of of a good faith query. Almost none are genuinely perplexed. Its only function is to be a cheap, passive aggressive "counterpoint" to quickly erase the report, dismiss the reporter, and the only thing it really reveals is that they weren't listening the first hundred or thousand times. They don't know because they don't want to know.
And that says an awful lot about about them.