Why Victims Don't Report
“Why didn't she say something sooner?”
“You should have reported it to the police.”
“You waited this long, you’re probably lying or mis-remembering.”
“Stop trying to ruin his reputation.”
These were the accusations that were being thrown at protesters as the GOP continued to do everything in their power to push then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh through to the final stretch to be confirmed as the next associate judge on the court. Out of all the political stunts that this administration has pulled, this had to be the most horrific and showed the world what people in this country are really like. In the days leading up to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s interview of both Dr. Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh, countless women confronted U.S. Senators pleading with them to listen to their stories and asking for a thorough investigation into Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s claims. Most of these protesters were met laughter, disregard, or a blatant “Go the police” answer from elected officials. There was no sympathy or empathy. As I watched the events unfold surrounding Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, it hit me that women truly don’t matter - not to politicians or this administration — and that the way women were treated during this period is exactly why countless — sexual assault survivors don’t come forward.
The day after Dr. Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about how Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were in high school, the number one question that kept getting asked was “Why did she wait until now?” This same question was asked when I was getting dinner with a guy friend of mine. As soon as the question came out of his mouth, I inhaled sharply and prepared myself for the worst. What surprised me was that he leaned forward and said “I really want to understand why women keep quiet for so long.” He seemed genuine in his concern, but so many aren’t.
There are a plethora of reasons why women and girls and victims of assault don’t report their assailants. Some of those reasons include:
Fear of further violence or death.
Feeling ashamed or the fear of being shamed. Victims are often led to believe that violence committed against them is their fault.
Fear of not being believed because of past sexual history or just not being believed.
Fear of losing a job or income.
Fear of retaliation against family members and friends.
Fear that it could happen a second time.
Fear of being re-victimized after coming forward.
Fear of going through the trauma all over again by speaking out and no one being held accountable.
As a woman, I live in a constant state of fear of someone thinking that they can have access to my body and personal space whenever they want. Growing up in Charleston, catcalling and street harassment were everyday occurrences. Men would say something and if they didn’t get the response they wanted, they proceeded with verbal assaults. I recall a time that two men riding around in a car threatened to run my sister and I over if we didn’t respond to their advances. Imagine that: there are men threatening to run over two women for turning them down. Do you know how scary that is?
You would think that as much as we have progressed that women wouldn’t have to operate in a state of constant survival. To protect ourselves, women will smile or be polite in the face of harassment just to avoid violence. Think about it: how often you have seen this or even done it yourself?
I believe Dr. Blasey Ford just like I believe Anita Hill. Both of these women had nothing to gain and everything to lose by coming forward and yet, they still were treated with disrespect and were told either blatantly that their stories were unbelievable, or believable but couldn’t be the men they were accusing of the violence.
This is why so many victims remain silent. The lengths women specifically have to go to to protect ourselves is outrageous. We should be able to live freely in a world where people don’t perpetrate violence against us, but we don’t. And too often, it’s safer to stay silent.