WHY DIDN’T YOU REPORT IT BEFORE? is the go-to chorus of rape culture. These are often the first words people are told when they find the courage to disclose that someone sexually assaulted them. Victim survivors face a barrage of questions, accusations, and criticisms, whether it’s been years or even decades after the fact. Society is quick to accuse them of attention-seeking, making it up, and – when they are believed – of having no one to blame for themselves because they did not report.
What is especially cruel about this stance toward victim-survivors is that even when they do file a police report, the criminal justice system is hard-wired to fail them. There is little hope for any rectitude when statistics show that out of every 1000 cases of sexual assault, only 25 perpetrators go to jail. Social attitudes toward victim-survivors of sexual assault reflect a grotesque degree of willful ignorance.
Sexual Assault In Numbers
Per The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), 2 out of 3 sexual assaults are never formally disclosed to law enforcement, making it one of the most underreported crimes.
In addition to the traumatic nature of sexual assault and rape, there are many prohibitive reasons why victim-survivors may opt out of reporting.
|Sexual assault reports lead to arrest
|Sexual assault reports lead to conviction
|Sexual assault reports lead to incarceration
In the United States, the chances that victim-survivors of sexual assault will see justice is slim.
In 8 out of 10 sexual assaults, the perpetrator is someone the victim-survivor knows, which usually means that they have groomed their mutual social circle prior to the sexual assault. For example, the perpetrator may hold a position of power affording them greater social capital than the person they target.
|Girls under age 18
|Adult victims are women
|1 in 6
|US women have experienced attempted/completed rape
Nota bene: The low incidence of justice is not an American phenomenon. The conviction rate is equally dismal in the United Kingdom.
The Reality of Rape Culture
As it stands, society is turns a blind eye to sexual assault and rape. The criminal justice system rarely holds perpetrators of these crimes to account. In most cases they walk free while the victim-survivor is left to pick up the pieces without support.
In the rare instances when sexual assault cases make it before a court of law, the victim-survivor becomes the de facto defendant as they are put on trial. They will usually be subjected to DARVO tactics in public which can re-traumatize them.
Asking people why they don’t report sexual assault is the wrong question. What we should be asking is why people don’t feel safe to report sexual assault.