As the scandal of embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh unfolds in front of the public eye, with his defense team consisting of a misogynistic president infamously known to be a womanizer and perpetrator of sexual assault, victims around the world are reliving the trauma of sexual assault with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s emotional testimony. A history of double standards and a pronounced rape culture is revealed as thousands of survivors tell their stories with the recent social media trend #WhyIDidntReport.
“He was a friend. It was New Year’s Eve, my senior year of high school. Everyone was drunk,” tweeted Sarah Hyland, the 27-year-old ‘Modern Family’ star. “He broke into the bathroom I was in. I hoped it was a dream but my ripped tights in the morning proved otherwise. I thought no one would believe me. I didn’t want to be called dramatic. After all, I didn’t say ‘no.’ Shock can do that to a person.”
But President Donald Trump showed no remorse as more victims shared their #WhyIDidntReport stories, tweeting that victims similar to Ford should not wait 35 years to report to authorities, but “immediately file.” According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, the reasons why most victims do not report right after a rape occurs includes: he or she fears retaliation from the rapist, believes the police would not help, believes it was not important enough to report, or the victim knew the perpetrator and did not want to cause trouble. For these reasons and many other undeniably upsetting reasons, many victims refuse to report after a rape.
In our society, the thought of jeopardizing a man’s reputation is valued more than a woman’s shame and pain, creating a shift in blame from the rapist to the rape victim, ergo victim blaming. RAINN stated that out of 1,000 rape cases, only 310 victims report it to authorities, making it the most underreported crime, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). Questioning a man’s character on whether he committed a rape or not happens regardless if the victim is female or male. For men who have experienced rape, their vulnerability is put on the line and causes them just as much shame as it does for women, making the rape case that much harder to report.
“Because I felt ashamed of what happened and didn’t want to publicly ruin someone’s life, even though they privately ruined mine #WhyIDidntReport,” tweeted actress Cara Delevingne Wednesday night.
The harsh reality that lies underneath this terrible crime is that a majority of rape cases occur early on in a person’s life, such as college or high school, and haunts them for the rest of his or her life. In more severe cases, it happens during someone’s childhood, before the child is even educated on consent or can defend him or herself.
The NSVRC reported that more than 90 percent of sexual assault cases go unreported on college campuses and only 12 percent of child sexual abuse cases are actually reported to authorities.
As stories continue to surface, I cannot help but imagine how many of my peers throughout high school and college experienced dark nights similar to the memories Ford shared at Capitol Hill.
“I don’t remember as much as I would like to. But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget,” said Ford in her testimony on Sept. 27. “They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me.”
She recalls the distinct laughs and hollars coming from Kavanaugh and his friend in the room Mark Judge, stating they were “having fun at my expense.” As Ford attempted to call out for help, Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand, forcibly muffling her cries to the point where she thought he might inadvertently suffocate her.
Rape exists in all tiers of society. Rape does not discriminate. Rape affects the young and old, the rich and poor, both men and women. In eight out of 10 rape cases, the victim and assaulter know each other. One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at least once in their lifetime; however, out of 1,000 reported rape cases, 994 perpetrators walk free.
Let us not forget those whose voices were ignored and experiences discredited before having a chance at receiving justice. Let us not forget that this past week another man walked free, this time onto the Senate floor. And let us not forget the reasons why so many refused to report, because as survivors, they will never forget.