Why do survivors of sexual assault don’t report to the police?

Every 92 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. With an average of 321,500 victims of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States, age 12 or older, many do not report. Sexual violence is pervasive in every demograhic and every community, including the LGBTQ community. Despite this, 75% of sexual assault cases go unreported to the police. Why is this the case? 


Sexual assault leaves detrimental physical and psychological harm on a survivor. Victims may be unable to process all that is occurring, feeling overwhelmed and distressed, and/or not ready to re-confront their story. Each and every survivor’s stories are both valid and different, being shaped by their personal history, identity, context, culture, and community. Just because a survivor does not report their assault does not mean an assault never happened. There are a variety of reasons as to why people don’t come forward, with all reasons being legitimate and based on what they think is best for them in their healing process. 


“There is no one way to be raped, there is no one way to survive a rape, there is no one way to report a rape and what that looks like — 10 minutes later, 10 months later or 10 years later,” Turkos, a survivor of sexual violence, said. “We are all doing our best.”


Many survivors reported feeling too ashamed to come forward or afraid of being blamed. There is a “victim blaming” tendency in rape culture when a tragic event occurs, there is a presumption that it is somehow your fault for the incident, like “ she/he/they were asking for it.” 


“Attached to that shame is a lot of self-blame. Victims of sexual assault almost always blame themselves, and we can understand why, because in our culture, we tend to blame victims in general. We say things like, ‘She shouldn’t have been wearing that kind of outfit, she shouldn’t have drank so much, or why did she go to that party?”


We find some reason to blame the victim,” Beverly Engel, a psychotherapist and author of more than 20 self-help books, including a book on surviving sexual assault, stated on ABC News. 


The sad reality is that justice is not always served. According to a report by Rainn that cited 2010-2014 Bureau of Justice statistics, out of every 1,000 reports, 994 perpetrators will walk away free. This can derive serious doubts from survivors about reporting and questioning whether or not it is worth their time to retell their story over and over again and relive their trauma.


Of course, there are a lot of responsible and well-trained law enforcement that range from the various federal departments to local departments. But their role is to identify a violation of the law and bring perpetrators to justice. Their role is not to facilitate the continued well-being of the victim’s experience. That is something that there is specialized training to do and people have, thank goodness, prioritized, but we can’t guarantee that because that’s not how the system is built,” Sorensen, vice president of victim services RAINN, said.


In 2017, the #MeToo movement spread worldwide, encouraging millions of survivors to share their stories with sexual assault and harassment. Christine Blasey Ford came forward about her sexual assault in 1982 by Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Knowing that she would have to relive her trauma in front of the whole world and receive backlash, she felt it was her responsibility to tell her truth and inspired many survivors to report their stories. President Trump tweeted out questioning Ford’s credibility, “if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says it is” she or parents would have reported it to the police back then. This sparked survivors to share their stories of why they didn’t report their assault using the #WhyIDidntReport, emphasizing the difficulties, distress, shame, and fear surrounding sexual assault. 


Social media movements like this are potentially life-changing because you see hundreds of thousands of other people sharing their stories and you don’t feel like you’re the only person this has happened too. You don’t feel like it’s you in this vacuum where awful things happened to you,” Ms. Leong, a survivor of sexual abuse, said. 


It is never the survivor’s fault for their assault! No matter the situation one is in, no one ever deserves to be assaulted. These misogynistic, objectifying cultures perpetuate into marginalizing the survivor, thus making it difficult to come forward and report the assault. This is why we must tear down these disgusting narratives upon survivors and change the discussion by diverting the attention away from the survivor and place it upon the predator. Stop making it “their responsibility not to get raped”, but instead, beat down on the perpetrators and hold them accountable for their responsibility not to rape someone. Rape culture is real and we must continue to command justice for each and every victim/survivor and let their voices be heard rather than silenced! In order to provide justice for survivors of assault and abuse, we need reform in not only laws, but also the reporting process to accurately report and represent the experiences of survivors. 

Survivors are continuously voicing their stories louder than ever! They are not only creating changes on the way we perceive survivors and the justice system, but are the paving change for reform and justice for all survivors, making sure no one would ever have to say “me too.” 


Safe Squad directs the experience with the issue of sexual assault as our mission to provide a resource that will target this issue and keep communities safe to stop it from potentially happening. So that nobody would ever have to go through this incident. 

If you have experience sexual assault, you are not alone. To speak to someone who is trained to help, call the the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE to be connected to a local rape crisis center or chat online at online.rainn.org.