Tag Archives: Sexual Assault

Why Sexual Assault Cases Often Go Unreported

I want to take a few minutes to talk about something that’s deeply personal to me, and to many other women (and men) across the world. It’s estimated that one in four women will be victims of sexual assault at some point in their lives, but most cases don’t even get reported to the police.

I don’t talk about my situation very often, because – even after all this time – it’s still painful to talk about. Starting in early 2014, and not ending until late 2015, I was the target of multiple sexual assaults by the same perpetrator. I’ve always considered myself a pretty strong woman – with three older brothers, I learned how to fight at a pretty young age, and I’ve always been able to stand up for myself when the situation called for it.

But not with my rapist.

I wasn’t able to talk about it with my family until it had already been going on for over a year (which was immediately before it stopped – thankfully my family took my side and took actions to protect me from him). They never pushed me to talk about it, or to press charges, or any of that… They simply made sure that he would never get in touch with me again.

That didn’t mean that I never saw him again. In fact, he was arrested once in the parking lot of my apartment building with a gun. I assume he was coming after me, but I obviously never asked him about this. (He was soon released – he hadn’t committed any verifiable crimes, beyond carrying an unlicensed weapon.) Another time, I was alone in a different parking lot, and he passed less than three feet in front of my car, making direct eye contact with me. All the previous incidents flashed through my mind all at once, and I panicked and ran inside to find my mother.

It wasn’t until 2017 that I had the courage to file a police report. I was informed that the statute of limitations for pressing charges had expired already, but I could file a report to help someone else’s case, if another report was filed against him in the future. This is when I found out that I wasn’t his only victim up until that point. The other victim was a 12-year-old girl, and while they couldn’t tell me any details about her report, it absolutely broke my heart knowing that I wasn’t his first, and I probably wouldn’t be his last, either.

The same person I told my story to, who told me that my report could help someone else, asked me, “Why didn’t you report this sooner? We might have actually been able to do something.” Well, in short, there are tons of reasons why someone might not report a sexual assault. Here are a few of mine.

They fear retaliation.

If you file a rape or sexual assault report, and the prosecutors determine that it’s “unfounded” (which happens far more often than we’d like to think about), the rapist is free – and they know that you have made a report against them. Considering their willingness to use force and violence to get their way, you can only imagine what happens when they feel someone has tarnished their reputation. In my case, I told family members – he was also a member of my family, by marriage – and he came after me once he was kicked out of his home.

The chance for justice is low.

Most sexual assault perpetrators who are taken to trial don’t serve even a single day in prison, despite a near-universal agreement that “rape is bad.” But rape isn’t the only form of sexual assault, and up until 2013, it was the only form of sexual assault that was considered bad enough to even warrant an investigation… And, even still, the laws are fuzzy about what “counts.” The statute of limitations exists, and although it varies from region to region, it’s hard to talk about, so many women choose not to.

The victims who do report are blamed for their own assault.

Rape culture penalizes the victims of these heinous crimes by asking what they did to provoke the attack. As far as I’m aware, this is the only crime in which the victim must prove their own innocence before their attacker has to prove theirs – and, in many cases, it’s impossible to prove that you “did enough” to prevent it. My rapist told me that I should “be grateful” that someone like him was “even interested” in someone like me. Never mind the fact that I had told him that I was not interested in him.

Their assaulter is stronger than they are.

Rape isn’t a “sex crime” – it’s a crime of power. No one sexually assaults someone who is stronger than them (although sexual harassment of someone bigger and stronger is a real possibility – but that’s not what we’re talking about here). In one instance, my rapist shoved me against a wall and told me, “It doesn’t really matter what you say – I’m stronger than you are.” Because his use of force was implied, rather than exercised, that instance wouldn’t have been considered a “real” rape, under many jurisdictions.

They black out and have memory gaps.

Blacking out is a psychological defense mechanism that lets us pretend a traumatic event never happened. This has been well-documented in other cases of PTSD, but when it happens to a sexual assault victim, it’s often twisted that the victim is false-reporting an event that never really happened. In many cases (mine included), the victim may even struggle to determine whether the rapes were real or imagined – there are still a few instances of assault that I’m not 100% clear on (such as one case where I woke to find my attacker already on top of and inside me).

They’re ashamed of what it says about them.

In a society where women who have sex are considered sluts, and women who don’t want sex are considered prudes, a woman who is forced into sex when she doesn’t want it is in a category all its own. My rapist told me once that I was “the best fuck” he’d ever had, and commenting on how wet I was at the time. (I was on my period, which was yet another reason for me to feel ashamed.)

They don’t want to disappoint their family.

In many cases, the perpetrator is a member of the victim’s family, either directly or indirectly. My rapist was my sister-in-law’s step-brother. I had known him for almost my entire life. Most people associate rapists with a stranger in a dark alley, and when the rapist is a little closer to home, there’s a chance that the victim will be blamed for “breaking up the family.” I am eternally grateful for my family members who stood by me during this time – I know of others who weren’t so lucky.

They didn’t do enough to stop it.

Even though I had learned how to fight from my brothers, all that knowledge went out the window when I was alone with him. I was pretty pudgy at the time (TBH, I still am, but that’s mostly unrelated) and he was very muscular. If I had fought back, he may have killed me. No, I don’t know this for sure, but I do know that he was arrested in 2008 for armed robbery and assault in a separate case. I don’t know if he had a knife or a gun with him any of the times he assaulted me, but I do know that he was strong enough to lift me off the ground, even though I weighed a good 30 pounds more than he did.

They’re gaslighted by their attacker.

Many rape victims are told that they must enjoy it, because they’re “so wet” when it happens. Truthfully, this happens as a defense mechanism by the body, in trying to make the rape as painless as possible (and it doesn’t always work). My rapist even told another family member, who suspected there was something going on, that the suspicion was stupid because, and I quote, “You know I don’t like fat girls.” When I heard that Trump’s defense against one sexual assault allegation was, “Just look at her! I don’t think so.” … I was horrified. Comments like that prove that sexual assault isn’t about sex at all – it’s about power and control.

Victims who do report are forced to relive the event.

When a lawyer represents an alleged rapist, it is their job to prove, without a doubt, that their client is innocent. Even when a woman files an informal report – one which doesn’t explicitly tarnish the accused’s name – the person taking the report needs as much of the information as possible, to prevent false accusations from getting through. I was questioned several times, over several days, just to see if they could catch me in a lie. There was only me, the police officer, and my sister-in-law in the room, and I cried with almost every question. If I had pushed my case to trial, I would have had to relive it again in front of dozens of people.

Their own (perceived) promiscuity will be held on trial, too.

When a rape allegation goes to trial, the victim is asked intrusive questions about how many sexual partners they’ve had, what they were wearing, and whether they were intoxicated. In almost every instance (that I can remember) with my rapist, I was wearing pajamas – because I was in my own home. The first time, I had been drinking to celebrate my first day in a new city. I was drunk for most of the other times, too, in an attempt to “wash” the traumatic event out of my mind. And, I wasn’t a virgin when the first rape happened – even though I had literally only had sex once before that. If I had ever had consensual sex with my rapist, it would be assumed that I wanted it this time, too.

There is often no physical evidence.

In my case, the physical evidence had “expired” – as I didn’t tell police until my sexual assault had finally come to an end. In other cases, the attacker may use a condom, and in the eyes of the law, if the rapist has time to use a condom, the victim has time to get away. (This isn’t always true.) In cases where the victim gives into the rape to prevent the situation from escalating – as I had on more than one occasion – it’s legally deemed “consensual,” even if there was a verbal threat of violence for non-compliance. You can’t usually prove what someone says to you, so if there aren’t any signs of a struggle, there’s no proof of force.

Because talking about sexual assault is really hard.

Even if none of the above were true in my situation, it would still be really, really hard to talk about my rape, because of the way our society is set up. Women are shunned for talking about sex, and feminists are shunned for letting themselves be victims. (As a side note, who “lets themselves” be victimized? But I digress.) Our society is set up to make it really, really difficult to talk about sexual assault – and we have convicted rapists doing very little time, in relation to how long their victims will live with the effects of what happened to them.

It’s been over ten years since my rapist left my life. I’ve moved six times, but I still worry that I’m going to run into him somewhere. It’s been over eight years since I reported my case to the police, and I’m still crying as I write this. I still have nightmares about what happened, and I still have a hard time doing certain consensual sexual activities with my partner. I still try to mask the pain in whatever ways I can – there’s whiskey in my coffee this morning just so I can be calm enough to write this. Obviously, the whiskey doesn’t fix the problem, but it makes it easier to talk about.

It doesn’t matter why you don’t report your rape or sexual assault – your reasons are just as valid as mine, and I want you to know that I’m right here with you. If you feel comfortable doing so, I invite you to share your story in the comments below. Just know that you are not alone, and you are a survivor.

Evan Rachel Wood Posts Powerful Letter Online About Past Sexual Assults

Last week, Rolling Stone published a profile Evan Rachel Wood. In the piece, Wood discusses her own personal experience as a survivor of rape.

Alex Morris, the author of the piece, included a quote from an email Wood sent him in which she explained why she told him her story, and why she wants to tell the world.

However the magazine only published a portion of the note, so in the name of transparency, the Westworld actress took to Twitter to share her email in its entirety.


In her email to Morris, Wood wrote:

I started questioning my reasons for staying vague about my experiences as a girl growing up in America. I think, like a lot of women, I had the urge to not make it a sob story, to not make it about me. ‘I didn’t have to confirm what happened, what mattered is that sh*t happened. Bad. Sh*t. That still affects me to this day.

I think deep down, I also didn’t want to be accused of doing it for attention, or told it wasn’t a big deal, or ‘that’s not really rape’. I will not be ashamed. I will also not project some false idea of being completely over it because ‘I am so strong.’ I don’t believe we live in a time where people can stay silent any longer. I certainly can’t.

Not given the state our world is in with its blatant bigotry and sexism. It should be talked about because it’s swept under the rug as nothing and I will not accept this as ‘normal’. It’s a serious problem. I am still standing. I am alive. I am happy. I am strong. But I am still not ok.”

Well said. She continued:

I think it’s important for people to know that, for survivors to own that, and that the pressure to just get over it already, should be lifted. It will remind people of the damage that has been done and how the trauma of a few minutes can turn into a lifetime of fighting for yourself. It’s not that you can’t get over it, it’s just that you are never the same, or maybe I just haven’t gotten there yet.

So to answer your blunt question bluntly, yes. I have been raped. By a significant other while we were together, and on a separate occasion, by the owner of a bar. The first time I was unsure that if it was done by a partner it was still in fact rape, until too late. Also who would believe me. And the second time, I thought it was my fault and that I should have fought back more, but I was scared. This was many many years ago and I of course know now neither one was my fault and neither one was ok. This was all before I tried to commit suicide and I am sure was one of the many factors. There you have it.”

The letter speaks to many of the reasons why survivors of rape often don’t come forward when they’ve been sexually assaulted, including a fear of being blamed, being accused of making it up, and being told it’s not a big deal.

Evan Rachel Wood Opens Up About Surviving Rape Twice: We Can’t ‘Stay Silent Any Longer’

Evan Rachel Wood has opened up to Rolling Stone in an email that she sent the day after the US Presidential election.

She wrote:

I’ve been raped. By a significant other while we were together. And on a separate occasion, by the owner of a bar …

I don’t believe we live in a time where people can stay silent any longer. Not given the state our world is in with its blatant bigotry and sexism.”

The email comes after the magazine published an interview with her, in which she admits she’d suffered ‘physical, psychological and sexual’ abuse.

Evan, who describes herself as ‘gender fluid’, also spoke about being bisexual.

She added in the email:

It was always talked about like a phase or something stupid, or something you were doing for attention.

You know, bisexuality is worthy of eye rolls. And I didn’t realise how damaging that was until I tried to have healthy relationships as an adult and realised that there was still all this shame and conditioning and stigma around my sexuality that was really affecting the way I related to people.”

Has been extremely open about her sexuality, often speaking about it on social media.

She also shared a video on her YouTube channel last year aiming to “shatter misconceptions about bisexuality.” 


This Compelling Photo Series Aims To Tackle Rape Victim Blaming

On June 22, a student-run project called Current Solutions published a series of photos of women representing victim-blaming statements like those made by Brock Turner and his father in court.

Current Solutions is a platform dedicated to spreading awareness about sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and gender-based violence. It’s a place for people to safely share their stories, to enter the conversation and safely speak out about these widespread and often taboo issues in a real, unfiltered way.

Launched just over a month ago, Current Solutions has gotten a great response from the community, and their “Dear Brock Turner” Artist Feature garnered even more attention.

Co-Founder of Current Solutions, Maxwell Fong, explained

Most people know the statistic one in four women are assaulted during their college career, but what most people don’t realize is that this happens to one in four women they know. By putting faces to these stories, we’re showing the world that people are not afraid to speak out. People who have shared their stories have come back and told us about the healing that sharing has given them. Many of these survivors are coming out for the first time, and we are honored that they have chosen our platform to share on. We’re trying to provide a safe place for people to share,” 

Elan Timmons, also added

We are passionate about raising awareness because these issues are never going to go away on their own. We need people to realize that they are prevalent and worth solving; and we want to come up with tangible solutions.”

Hannah Joslin, Public Relations & Branding Director.

Not only have we gotten people wanting to share their stories, but we have also gotten a major response from people in the community telling us that they love the stories we are sharing to help spread awareness, asking how they can help and get involved. People have expressed that they too believe this is an issue worth talking about.”

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Lady Gaga Delivers Show-Stopping Oscars Performance Of ‘Til It Happens To You’

Lady Gaga delivered one of the most powerful and poignant performances of her song Til It Happens to You at the 88th Academy Awards.

The song was co-written by Diane Warren for the film The Hunting Ground, about rape on college campuses. Gaga started off the performance by playing solo on piano, but midway through the song, numerous sexual assault survivors appeared on stage beside her. On their forearms were words and phrases like “survivor” and “not your fault.”

Gaga was visibly moved at the end, with her performance garnering a standing ovation.


The 29-year-old previously spoke out about her own direct experiences of sexual violence in 2014, revealing she was raped by a music producer while she was still a teenager.

Earlier this week, she became one of the numerous female musicians to publicly announce her support for Kesha, who’s injunction request against her label Sony Music was denied, despite the singer’s allegations of abuse at the hands of her long-time producer and collaborator, Dr Luke.

Gaga’s emotional performance of ‘Til It Happens to You’ was introduced by US Vice President Joe Biden, who used the appearance to speak about the Obama administration’s ‘It’s On Us’ campaign to tackle sexual assault. You can watch the performance in full below:

This year has already seen Gaga win an Emmy for her performance in American Horror Story: Hotel, and stun audiences with her Superbowl National Anthem rendition and Grammys tribute performance to David Bowie.

But despite the stunning rendition, Gaga missed out on the Oscar for Best Original Song, which went to Sam Smith for his Bond theme Writing’s on the Wall.

Male Police Officer Suspended After Allegedly Threatening Rape a Gay Woman

Police sergeant, Jesus Menocal Jr. from Florida has been suspended after being accused of sexual abuse by a young lesbian couple he pulled over.


The couple – who have asked not to be identified – said that Menocal pulled them over for making a U-turn and then detained them for questioning. He told one of the girls, who is 17, to get in the back of his cop car, and had her 20-year-old girlfriend follow behind in her car.

Back at the station, the couple say Menocal took the younger girl into a private room and began asking her inappropriate questions.

Talking to WSVN, the young woman said

… [He asked me] how do I have intercourse, and I told him, ‘Why do I need to answer that? Why is that necessary?’ He insisted me to answer it, so I told him how me and my partner have intercourse, which is me and my girlfriend. After, he asked if I was a virgin. He asked me, if he was to test me right that moment, if I had any diseases on me.”

She went on to say that Menocal began rubbing his genitals over his pants and alleges he told her to “take off my pants or I was going to get arrested.”

After putting her shorts back on, he asked to see her tattoos.

He wanted me to take off my shirt and my bra together, and I told him, ‘No. Why do I have to do that? There’s no reason to do that,’ Then he said, ‘Oh I thought you wanted to fuck’. Honestly, I thought I was going to get raped. I thought he would make me sleep with him.”

The teen reported that the officer returned her to her worried girlfriend about fifteen minutes later, and they immediately filed a police report.

The day after the alleged sexual assault, Menocal was suspended with pay while the Hialeah Police Department began an investigation into the couple’s allegations.

The Hialeah Police Department, Police Chief, Sergio Velázquez said in a statement.

Very serious allegations were made, which require a methodical, detailed and thorough examination of all statements and evidence. This is a very delicate road … and we seek to be impartial. Our job is to get to the bottom of this. If it is proven that there is wrongdoing, the appropriate decision will be taken. Otherwise, he will return to work.”

Lena Dunham Explains What Rape Does To Women’s Voices

When Lena Dunham received an award at Variety’s Women in Power luncheon on Friday, she spoke up about her own sexual assault and why she’s been motivated to help other victims.


Dunham was being honoured for her work with GEMS, an organisation that works to empower girls who fell into human trafficking. The HBO actress is now using her personal experience – and voice as a celebrity – to help others.

When I was raped, I felt powerless. I felt my value had been determined by someone else. Someone who sent me the message that my body was not my own, and my choices were meaningless. It took years to recognize my personal worth was not tied to my assault; the voices telling me I deserved this were phantoms, they were liars. So as a feminist and a sexual assault survivor, my ultimate goal is to use my experience, my platform, and yes, my privilege, to reverse stigma and give voice to other survivors.”

Dunham also spoke of the stigma surrounding human trafficking victims and how there needs to be a shift in awareness and education.

Despite this clear lack of agency, we as a society somehow think that 14-year-old runaways make a choice to be in the commercial sex industry. We call these girls names and judge them and write pop songs celebrating their assailants and their fancy sneakers. We think that locking them up will help them make better choices. We look at youth in the commercial sex industry in America as willing participants in their own victimisation, ignoring the disenfranchisement that comes with being poor, from being a child, from being a girl of color, from being a homeless LGBT youth, from being a kid in foster care.

We ignore what it must be like to be bought and sold by adult men and to spend your adolescence that this is what you’re worth, that your voice doesn’t matter, that you have no power.”

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24:  Actors Glenn Close (L) and Lena Dunham attend Variety's Power of Women New York presented by Lifetime at Cipriani 42nd Street on April 24, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Variety)

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 24: Actors Glenn Close (L) and Lena Dunham attend Variety’s Power of Women New York presented by Lifetime at Cipriani 42nd Street on April 24, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Variety)

The Girls creator and star wrote about her sexual assault at Oberlin College in a controversial passage in her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl. She called her assailant Barry, but when reporters tracked down a real-life Oberlin alum with that name, the publisher announced new editions would clarify that “Barry” was a fake name and offered to pay the man’s legal fees.