Sexual assault: Why do people not always report it in?

I’ve known people who have been, by legal definition, sexually assaulted. And some of them did not want to report it in. I never pressed for reasons why, due to it not being any of my business and not wanting to overstep their boundaries by asking, but why might someone not report in a sexual assault?

It does not necessarily mean forced intercourse, I mean any type of sexual assault such as inappropriate touching and bodily contact as well.

One reason I have come to the conclusion people don’t report it in, is that society is structured in a way that exonerates the one committing the assault and causing the assaulted to wonder if THEY provoked the attack. “Was my skirt too short? Was I leading him on? Did I flirt too much but not pull away?” and I think this is very wrong and unfortunate.

Another might be that people fear that they will not be taken seriously, fearing that the police do not adequately handle claims of sexual assault and also contribute to victim-blaming… often times, a female will complain about sexual assault and an officer will ask her what she was wearing, if she’d been drinking, what she had been doing prior to it, as if blaming her.

And the final reason I can think of is that they feel intimidated and worried about retaliation if their complaint is not handled, but the one who assaulted them knows they complained.

A lot of times there’s no way you could possibly prove it. It’s not even a matter of the police not taking it seriously enough, but there’s nothing they could realistically do even if they wanted to. Plus, I’ve had it happen where it would legally fit the definition of sexual assault, but I still didn’t really feel like it was. If I met a guy at a club and was super drunk and he was all over me…well, I don’t know. They shouldn’t do that but I can’t consider every guy who does do that a sex offender.

Even a guy who I’m pretty sure would have raped me if my friend hadn’t been in the next room (eventually I started yelling for her)…I didn’t know anything about him other than his first name and cell number. And he was definitely sleazy, but I had no desire to do anything about it except get away from him and hide my neck from the world (he put HORRIBLE hickies all over my neck because he was holding me down and I couldn’t move). I guess I’m just used to that kind of thing, which is probably really bad. That guy certainly didn’t think he was an attempted rapist either, he tried calling me the next day.

I was sexually harassed at work, not sexually assualted. Totally different things, but they can carry a similar set of concerns. And I reported it. But I can tell you that the experience made me realize why people don’t report any kind of sexual violations. Even now I have regrets.

For me, it didn’t want to be “that girl”. The one who finds herself the damsel in distress in need of rescuing and special attention. I just wanted to be like everyone else. Tough and independent and capable of handling her shit on her own. I had spent two years trying to prove to all those guys that I belonged out there in the trenches. Reporting one of them for sexual harrassment was like admitting that I wasn’t as tough as they were…that I was different. It would have justified the opinion that women are weak, more trouble than they are worth.

I’m also a private person. Accusations of sexual impropriety require revealing very personal information about yourself. When I first went to my boss, he asked if I was ever flirtatious with the offending coworker. He wondered aloud if it possible that I had sent mixed signals. How the fuck does someone disprove something like this? I ended up telling him TMI just to impress upon him how wrong he was. If I had known that that was going to happen, I probably would have not come forward.

As Blackberry said, the biggest reason people are loathe to come forward is lack of proof. I came forward because I had proof and eye-witnesses. I wouldn’t have been so emboldened if I had lacked these things.

So many reasons.

Abuse can be psychological as well as well as sexual. If your BF tells you YOU’RE the one in the wrong for rejecting his advances often enough, you can come to believe it. Often associated with your parents having modeled a similarly shitty relationship to you growing up, so it becomes ingrained as “normal” for a woman to put up with that shit, without even thinking about it.

(This is the main reason why I believe “staying together for the children” is a bunch of horseshit. The kids will absorb your model of relationship as what’s normal, and will repeat it themselves in their own relationships – and if it sucks for you, it will suck for your kids. Breaking out of that cycle is HARD and takes concerted, conscious effort. You are NOT, in fact, staying together for the kids. You are fucking your kids over.)

Most of the other reasons I might have brought up are covered in the OP. There’s a great deal of institutionalized sexism whereby those with the authority to do anything don’t take such reports seriously. Look at Steubenville. The uproar was all about how the rape trial was going to ruin the BOYS’ lives. Oh noes. Seriously?

That is just one example of what happens when you report sexual assault. I’ve heard many many others. Many police precincts treat all rape accusations as false, until proven otherwise (and coming from that assumption, how can you prove anything?). Not to mention how invasive and painful rape kits are, and then they are rarely processed. Then when you add in the shockingly low conviction rates, I think a better question might be “Why does anyone ever report sexual assault?”

Many rape victims are put on trial, instead of the rapists. In the case of the Steubenville gang rape/assault, for instance, a lot of people blamed the girl and even threatened her. In the case of the 12 year old who got repeatedly raped, again, she was blamed for leading the boys and men on.

And a lot of it is he said/she said. He might argue that everything was consensual, while she might say that she felt that she would be beaten if she resisted.

Add in an indifferent or downright hostile investigator, and a rape or sexual assault victim might get traumatized all over again, with no justice done.

I don’t know where you are.
In this state, rape kit collection is done by a specially-certified registered nurse. Invasive, yes. Painful, probably not so much. As there’s a certified witness filing an independent report, I’d suspect the police do work on the cases more often than not, just out of self interest if nothing else.

Yeah, that’s why I probably wouldn’t report even a violent rape. Not unless there was enough physical damage that I really needed medical attention.

All pelvic exams are really painful for me. Plus if you’ve just been raped, don’t you think you might already be in pain?

Unwillingness to have one’s private life exposed to public scrutiny.

Disapproval by family/friends/colleagues for bringing trouble on a popular relation/colleague.

If in a family group, other members may know about the person’s track record, but have put it all behind them and don’t want to rake it all up again.

Harm to one’s professional advancement if seen to be litigious or ‘difficult’ to work with.

If I was a woman and I’d been raped and I’d been hurt by it, I’d probably want medical care, at least an exam by a nurse.
But I totally can understand not wanting it. What I meant to be saying is it’s as gentle as possible in my state as a matter of course.

For one thing, this. I reported a sexual assault, I’ve written out the long story here before. It sucked. At least the guy got a prison sentence, but he also got to threaten me a little more. I got to spend a very long, cold night at the police station. Not in a cell, but certainly no better than a criminal.

Also, you get touched and groped so much as a woman that frankly, you get used to brushing it off and you tell yourself it isn’t a big deal. “If you’re strong enough you just deal with it yourself.”

If I were to report every guy who groped me, and I were to go through the same steps as with the one guy I did report, I’d never leave the police station.

So this:

So when I was raped, I didn’t report it. Because I didn’t know the guy, not even his name, and I was in Brazil, because what are the police going to do anyway, because I showered right afterwards, because I barely realised I had been raped because I thought it was my own fault, because I didn’t even know where the police station was, because I needed to leave the following day, because I didn’t want to think about it, because I felt guilty, because I felt disgusted, because there is absolutely no fucking point at all.

(NB: IN THIS PARTICULAR SITUATION! I do not want to discourage anyone from reporting rape!)

In my case, I couldn’t afford to be fired. He was my boss.

I might have prevailed in the end, but in the meantime, I would have lost my house, moved back in with my parents, and had to expose them to all the pain of having a daughter who’d been raped.

Then you’d probably know why pelvic exams aren’t always walks in the park, particularly if there’s any existing physical trauma. Better to remain silent, ya dig?

Anyway, everyone else has explained everything quite well. Beyond all of that, you have the additional issue that once you make a complaint about an assault or even harassment, everything changes. Everyone is afraid to speak around you, afraid of offending you.

I coach high school debate and at one of our coach meetings, another coach said something really inappropriate to me (he basically called me a whore). I didn’t want to turn him in and make it a thing, but I did want him to realize that what he said was inappropriate and made me uncomfortable. So, I sent him an email, calmly explaining why it was inappropriate, how it made me feel, and letting him know that he needs to be more aware of what he’s saying before he really says something more damaging to someone else. All well and good. Except he brought it up to our league president, who then reported it to the high school district, who then did a full investigation, which resulted in everybody getting sexual harassment lectures, which meant everybody was 1: mad at me they had to deal with that (because it was, apparently, my fault) and 2: barely anyone would speak around me, because they were afraid they’d offend me and I’d turn them in, too. It was a super fun season. And all because someone else called me a whore. Hooray!

It’s even worse when you’ve been sexually assaulted. Everyone thinks you did something to deserve it— was your skirt too short? Why were you walking alone? Are you sure you didn’t flirt with him? I mean, everyone knows you like sex. . .

My father said a disgusting thing last week. One of Bob Filner’s victims was on CNN talking about her experience, and he immediately snorted and called her a big fat liar. Why? Because she is big and fat…which means there’s no way she could have been a victim of a sexual crime by a creepy pervert. Then he had the audacity to say the same thing at church the next day (he teaches Sunday School, and he talked about this lady in his lesson! I can only hope he was just playing the fool cuz I was there.)

It’s everyday douchebaggery that keeps people afraid of filing a police report. Not to be snarky, but I don’t even know why the OP has to ask the question.

I will say this as gently as possible…

I don’t think you want to mansplain rape kits to women. That cannot possibly end well.

Another thing, for me.

I’d have to share my vulnerability. But by not being strong, I let everyone down. I am the strong one, I fight them off, I strike fear into the hearts of men. How can I be the one this happens to? My papa used to say, when my mum worried “I pity the man who tries”. But I wasn’t strong enough, when it came down to it. And I don’t want to be weak and I don’t want to be pitied. I don’t want to admit that to anyone, including the police. It’s stupid, but I can’t help it.

A small part of me still wishes I hadn’t told my SO. I wish I could still be that strong person to him. He says he sees me the same way, but I doubt that’s possible. Fuck it, not a small part: a massive part. I wish I hadn’t told him and I was still superwoman and he never had to worry about me.

Going to the police, seeing them pity me. Tell them honestly I wasn’t strong enough. No thanks.

It’s probably the worst reason ever not to report assault, but I can’t help it. It’s worse than the dream where you’re naked in front of the school auditorium, and then you pee yourself too and everyone laughs, and your legs stop working so you have to crawl away on all fours. You have to say out loud: “I am not everyone’s expectations, I am just a little girl.” It fucking sucks.

ETA: Thanks Kaio, that’s certainly more gentle than I could’ve done.

Many years ago my step-mom was raped when she stepped outside of a club with a guy to smoke a cigarette. She didn’t report it. She said she felt that it was her fault for going outside with him, plus she had an orgasm during the rape and she was humiliated by it.

Did you read my link? Pelvic exams are painful at the best of times; after a rape they would almost certainly hurt. A lot.

As for your “suspicions”, in all my experience, you are wrong. It is a shocking thing, and many people don’t believe it even when it’s shown how callous and hurtful police are to rape victims, but it happens all the damn time. If your state has improved that, great! I hope more states and municipalities follow that lead. Most don’t.


I have never seen the term mansplain used more appropriately.

Another reason some women might choose to remain silent about sexual assault is that the men in their lives (husbands, boyfriends, fathers, brothers, sons etc.) might take matters in their own hands and assault the man who assaulted her. This could only lead to more trouble and public exposure.

aNewLeaf, I sincerely hope you are never the victim of rape and then have to face the exposure and vulnerability of submitting to a post-rape exam, no matter how gentle. I sincerely wish no woman would ever face this, either.