Talking About Sexual Assault: Why Victims Keep Silent

By Dena Leichnitz

Sexual Assault and why the victims stay silent

With all the recent talk about sexual assault, there seems to be a lot of doubt about whether they are true or not, based on the fact that the person bringing forth the charges never brought them forth before. The going thought on the subject is the longer you wait the more likely you are lying. But that is far from the truth.

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According to the U.S Department of Justice only 30 percent of sexual assault cases are reported. That means 70 percent of cases (or 7 out of 10) cases go unreported.

I never reported my case. I was only 8 when it happened but I didn’t even speak about it until I was 13. Before that point, I told everyone I fell on a rock; even the doctors believed that one. Ironically, when I was raped my mother was working as a rape counselor and even she didn’t know.

There are a lot of reasons women don’t report sexual assault, from fearing they won’t be believed to fearing the assailant might hurt someone they care about, they keep silent.

People act like women should talk about their violations with relative ease, whether it is rape or abortion, people on both sides of the aisle act like if you don’t talk about it, if you don’t report it then it never happened.  I bring abortion up, not to muddy the argument, but because they both have definite similarities. In fact, abortion is also referred to as “medical rape” by those who have gotten pregnant through rape as reported by :

“although many people believe that abortion will help a woman resolve the trauma of rape more quickly, or at least keep her from being reminded of the rape throughout her pregnancy, many of the women in our survey who had abortions reported that abortion only added to and accentuated the traumatic feelings associated with sexual assault.”

Speaking out about something so horrific as rape is not easy and most women would rather try to live with it than go in front of jury and tell the world what happened.  To wonder why women don’t speak out earlier means you have no concept on the ongoing trauma rape and sexual assault bring.

If the overall reporting of sexual assault is 30 percent, it is even less for rape. Again according the U.S Department of Justice, only 16 percent  of rape cases are reported.

Why would a woman or any person not report a rape? It is easy because nothing happens when they do. If we look at places like Newport and William James City in Virginia, rapes convictions almost never happen.

According to circuit court and Virginia State Police data obtained and analyzed by the Daily Press, between 2005 and 2013, only 37 percent of people charged with rape in Newport News and in Williamsburg-James City were convicted.  About 7 percent of cases ended with an acquittal.  In all the rest, the charges were dropped by prosecutors or dismissed by judges.

It would be foolhardy to think it only happens in Virginia, it happens everywhere.  Not only that, should you become pregnant, 31 states have laws that allow the rapist to maintain his right as a father!

We have long since treated those who have been raped as if they are the one who are guilty and have consistently vilified them. If you knew your life would be ripped apart and that nothing would happen to your rapist would you speak up? Especially when you have soulless people like one commenter known under the handle “MPA2000” who responded to the CNN article about rapists who retain their parental rights, “So why did you have the kid anyway?”

The sad part is people like MPA2000 are not uncommon, they are pretty much par for the course. Until people start having more compassion, until men are able to talk about their experiences, until rape and sexual assault is seen for the true destruction of the soul it is, we will continue to have silence.

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