Following a sexual assault, victims may question why it happened to them. They may wonder how they can return to the life they had before victimization. Many wonder what options they have to hold the offender accountable. They are burdened with the questions of whether they should report and, if they do, whether they will be believed. What justice can they possibly get? What justice is even available? Such questions weigh heavily on most victims, and, considering the traumatic nature of what happened to them, they fear that if they come forward, the justice system will just re-traumatize them.
Reasons for Not Reporting Sexual Assault
The decision of whether an adult victim reports their sexual assault to law enforcement is entirely up to them. And most do not report. Of the sexual assault calls we receive, approximately one-third reach out to us without having previously reported the assault to the police. Many reach out to us long after the assault occurred. Among these individuals, the most commonly stated reasons for not reporting and delayed reporting are:
Too Much Shame
Sexual assault is a dehumanizing event. Many victims feel an overwhelming sense of humiliation. Talking about the assault is too painful and demoralizing. Even if they can talk about what happened, the fear that their family, friends, or the public may find out is too much for them to face.
Assault Was Not Significant Enough
Many victims have conflicting feelings about what happened to them. They understand it was wrong and that they experienced real trauma, but they question whether it was criminal (particularly if no force was used) or significant enough to report. They want the offender to be held accountable for what they did, but they may feel that criminal charges are not justified or too severe.
A Fear That Seeking Justice Will Be Traumatic
In research that looked at why victims do not report, several reasons were related to our criminal justice system. Some victims indicated they did not report because they didn’t think police would believe them, that they would judge them, and maybe even partially blame them. Some feared retaliation by the offender. Many feared the assault becoming public. But as many as 1 out 3 victims that did not report cited a fear of the court process – which may include having to face their attacker again.
Reach Out To Our Trusted Team for Help Reporting Sexual Assault
We understand that the process of going through the justice system can be overwhelming. While seeking to hold an offender accountable for the harm they inflicted can be empowering and restorative, for many, the desire for justice is overshadowed by the fear of the judicial journey they believe they will have to endure to get that justice. Unfortunately, many who take that first, courageous step forward encounter unsympathetic police officers, prosecutors who look at them like another case number, or civil practitioners who lack the expertise, experience, and empathy to guide them. This defeating experience can deepen the wounds of the assault.
At Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, our compassionate team of attorneys is here for you if you or a loved one experienced sexual assault or abuse and is struggling with coming forward. Reach out today for caring guidance.