Staff Columnist

Telling why they didn't tell

Women speak out on why they didn't report a sexual assault

President Donald Trump answers a question about the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court and allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 18, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
President Donald Trump answers a question about the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court and allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 18, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Sexual assault is the most underreported violent crime in the nation.

Yet, on Friday morning, President Donald Trump questioned why Christine Blasey Ford didn’t immediately come forward to report a sexual assault as a teenager.

“Judge Brett Kavanaugh is a fine man, with an impeccable reputation, who is under assault by radical left wing politicians who don’t want to know the answers, they just want to destroy and delay. Facts don’t matter. I go through this with them every single day in D.C.,” Trump wrote, presumably a reference to the at least 16 women who have accused Trump of various sexual misconduct.

He added, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!”

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, between only 30 and 40 percent of those assaulted report to police or other authorities. U.S. Department of Justice statistics made into infographics by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network show only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported, which means two out of every three go unreported.

Why aren’t more reports made? For many personal reasons, but generally victims rightfully fear retaliation and aren’t confident their attacker will be held accountable. Statistics show the latter is a justifiable concern.

Of the 310 incidents reported, only 57 lead to an arrest. Of those, only 11 are referred for prosecution and, of those, only 7 result in a felony conviction. Only six attackers are ultimately incarcerated — far fewer than perpetrators of other crimes, including non-violent robberies.

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Following Trump’s assertion women and men who have experienced sexual assault and misconduct responded with a #WhyIDidntReport hashtag on social media. A few Iowa women also shared their stories directly with me.

“I told myself as my ex-boyfriend stood in the rain at my front door that, as a good Christian, I could at least give this person a ride to his parents house,” one woman in her 60s wrote about an assault that happened when she was 18.

“But one block away from their house he was forcing himself on me. I wore a turtle neck to school the last week before graduation to cover the bruises where he held my neck. For the longest time afterward I never said the word rape, because when he was finished he said, ‘There now you can say you’ve been raped’ and I didn’t want to use his words.”

A woman now in her 40s shared what happened when she sneaked out of her home to attend a party. “I was poor and a middle school nobody. He was rich, a popular athlete. We’d both been drinking. Who was going to believe me?”

It is not surprising a man with charges of sexual misconducting dating back at least three decades would fail to understand why women don’t report. Others, however, need to set politics aside and do some soul searching.

Sexual assault is the most underreported violent crime in the nation, for a reason.

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 368-8513, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com

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