It’s no secret that sexual assaults are vastly underreported – on average, it’s estimated that only about 35% of all assaults are reported to the police. What many people wonder is why the victims don’t immediately come forward and identify their attacker. Sadly, the reasons why are frequently connected to the rape culture that has been allowed to continue in our society for thousands of years and has only been truly challenged in recent years.
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According to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, victims have said that they didn’t report their assault because:
It’s difficult to not understand these reasons, especially since out of every 1000 rapes, an average of only 6 of the rapists will be sent to prison. In addition to this, as numerous cases have recently highlighted, people are more likely to question or dismiss a victim’s report then they are to believe it. But why?
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Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Dr. Larry Nassar, and numerous pro-athletes are just some of the men who have been accused of attacking at least one women and often more than one. Yet in each case, almost immediately without waiting to hear the victim’s story or learn about evidence, people decide to support the alleged attacker and question the validity of the victim’s report. Research has shown that this is frequently because:
Just recently Rachel Denhollander, who has accused Dr. Larry Nassar of sexual assault wrote an open letter to MSU President Simon regarding a statement she made about how the university handled Nassar.
In the statement, which was made during an MSU Board of Trustees meeting, Simon said: “I have been told that it is virtually impossible to stop a determined sexual predator and pedophile, that they will go to incomprehensible lengths to keep what they do in the shadows.”
In response, Denhollander provided numerous studies which show that time and time again, predators go unstopped because the victim isn’t believed, mostly because even with evidence, adults and those in charge don’t want to believe.
That certainly seems to be the case with Nassar and MSU. Since his arrest, investigations have revealed that young women reported that he sexually assaulted them as far back as 1997, only to have their reports dismissed by the gymnastics coach. In another case, when a student athlete reported that he had penetrated her, the athletic department determined she has “misunderstood” what he was doing to her and had instead decided his actions were appropriate medical actions. Then again in 2014, a Title IX investigation at the university determined that the victim “misunderstood” and only made the report because she didn’t understand that his penetration was actually medical treatment.
Instead of helping his many victims and reporting his inappropriate actions, the school instead brushed these reports off and allowed him to continue working. It wasn’t until they discovered that he had violated restrictions set in place after the Title IX investigation that he was fired.
This is just one example of the thousands of sexual assaults that could have been prevented around the country if just one person had spoken up and believed the victim.