Only 1/3 of Sexual Assault Survivors Report their Attacks

Gillian Sisley

And why this is a statistic that won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
Photo by Remy_Loz on Unsplash

It is reported by RAINN that out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, only 310 of them will be reported. That leaves another 690 assaults that are never brought before police.

To anyone who has not been a victim of this sort of crime, it can be confusing to understand why these numbers aren't any higher. I myself have been asked this very question, especially as a survivor who never reported her assault to police.

For those who haven’t been sexually assaulted, there’s really no question of what needs to be done next. When a crime is committed, that crime should be reported — right?

It’s the civic duty and responsibility of the victim to report their attacker and ensure that this criminal cannot strike again.

But the problem is, when it comes to living with the trauma following a sexual assault, there’s nothing black-and-white about it.

Everything is exceptionally grey, and murky, and more complex than many can imagine.

While I’m generally speaking from my own experience, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with fellow survivors and these are the reasons that 2/3 of us never reported our sexual assaulter:

PTSD is rampant in the survivor community.

Studies show that 49% of survivors of sexual assault will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives, as a result of their attacks.

PTSD, which stands for post-traumatic stress disorder, is caused by a response to any event or incident that can be considered traumatic. Examples of such traumatic incidents include natural disasters, accidents, or violent experiences.

I can confidently say that there is no other experience in my life thus far that can even come close to the trauma you experience after someone has decided that your body is their property, they are entitled to it, and so they do what they want with you.

When I have time to process and ruminate on how deep this violation has rooted itself into me, it’s sincerely so disturbing that it brings me to tears most times.

I’m 6 years out from my assault, and that one 45-minute event from one night in the summer of 2013 still haunts me on a daily basis.

I’ve been to therapy.

I've been diagnosed with PTSD.

I’ve lived through the panic attacks and episodes of paranoia.

The healing that victims have to actively seek and create and work for every single day truly never ends.

And we never wanted any of it to begin with.

But now we have to just live with it. And all we want to do is quietly and privately pursue our own healing and closure on our own terms. And for many of us, imagining going to the police and reported the assault, only to get wrapped up in the long and painful legal process to follow, just doesn't feel worth it.

Survivors have little faith in the justice system.

And we have really good reasons to feel this way.

Above, I touched on the statistic of out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, just over 300 of those assaults get reported. But the important statistics to know next is that out of those 300 reports, only 28 assailants will be charged with a felony conviction, and only 25 of those will be incarcerated.

And so, of those 310 reports, 285 of the attackers will walk away unscathed and free to continue with their lives. The lack of justice, in this case, is infuriating, and it's a reality that we survivors know of all too well.

Statistics are not on our side that we will get the justice we so rightly deserve.

Not to mention, the trauma following a violation to this degree is a lifelong sentence. None of us are responsible for what was committed against us, yet we are the ones who are forced to live with the consequences of someone else’s actions.

Even when we come forward, we are scarcely believed.

Even if we’re lucky enough to have our case go to trial, and in the small percent chance that our attacker is punished, they’re often given nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

This only deepens our trauma and shame.

For those reasons, we avoid being tormented by others by keeping to ourselves, law enforcement, and the like, for our own protection.

Re-traumatization through court proceedings is a very likely reality.

In a survey conducted of 53 legal advocates who assist sexual assault survivors through their court proceedings, 83% reported clients being regularly and routinely retraumatized by the court proceedings.

Another 81% reported their clients being retraumatized by their abusers in court. Another 60% stated that court personnel behaved in such a way or said something that was deeply disrespectful to their client.

52 of the 53 legal advocates reported having a sexual assault client expressing regret or remorse for reporting their abuser and having to go through the legal system, even if their case was won.

These findings are horrific, and act as a massive red flag to any survivor contemplating stepping forward for 'the sake of justice'. Plain and simple, it just doesn't seem like it will be worth it.

A crime was committed against them, and they reached out for help, thinking they were doing something that would possibly save other people from being as hurt as they were by this person, and more often than not their attacker gets nothing more than a slap on the wrist, if even that.

Just imagine how much an outcome like that would completely destroy a person all over again.

But that doesn’t even touch on the pain and difficulty the victim would have been experiencing throughout the proceedings, even before the judgment took place.

This is the current reality and climate of what victims of sexual assault are experiencing when they’re brave enough to step forward and report their attacker.

Final word.

Before you judge a survivor for not reporting their attacker, take a second to consider the ramifications that would come along with taking that step forward.

Imagine the torture you would be asking a survivor to voluntarily put themselves through.

Imagine the deepening of trauma which would undoubtedly take place.

Imagine how much denser the torment would become for those who had already been through enough, and already survived the unthinkable.

Would you ask your loved one to put themselves through this, simply for the principle of the thing?

Your mother, your sister, your wife, your girlfriend, your friend? Can you confidently say that you have no qualms expecting such a feat from someone you love?

And can you imagine going through such a cruel and devasting process yourself?

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Online solopreneur. Tea drinker. Committed optimist. I write about womanhood, social justice, writing & entrepreneurship.


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