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Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault

| September 23, 2018

'What he did to me 18 years ago still hurts so much that I would only revisit that assault and expose him publicly if there was a very clear purpose to doing so,' the author writes of herself being assaulted. (Shutterstock)

‘What he did to me 18 years ago still hurts so much that I would only revisit that assault and expose him publicly if there was a very clear purpose to doing so,’ the author writes of herself being assaulted. (Shutterstock)

By Jill Richardson

When Christine Blasey Ford came forward to report that President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, sexually assaulted her in 1982, you could cue the response: Why didn’t she speak out then? Why didn’t she go to the police?

There’s a long, long list of reasons why a woman wouldn’t speak out even now, and no doubt it was even more difficult in the pre-Anita Hill world of 1982.

I can’t speak for everyone who has faced sexual assault, but I can speak for myself.

1. At first, I didn’t know that what happened to me was a crime. My first assault occurred in college, 18 years ago. He lived in my dorm. I knew what rape was and didn’t think I’d experienced that. But I didn’t know that sexual violations without consent that aren’t sexual intercourse are also a crime.

other-words2. I couldn’t talk about it. Even now, I can’t describe what happened to my therapist in any detail. What happened involved body parts that are too private to discuss with those closest to me — let alone the police, a judge, or a newspaper. Talking about a past trauma can be re-traumatizing. Some of us cope by staying silent.

3. I blamed myself. I physically resisted for a while and then I froze and it happened. At the time, I told myself that if I really didn’t want it, I would’ve kept fighting. I didn’t know that freezing is a normal human response in a traumatic situation.

4. Afterward, I wanted him to be my boyfriend. My therapist said this was my way of trying to improve the situation. If he was my boyfriend, then what happened could be reinterpreted as meaningful. It’s a perverse response, but it’s apparently not uncommon.

5. I know someone who reported a rape to the police and had a traumatic experience of testifying in court and getting cross-examined by her rapist’s lawyer in front of her rapist. And then the rapist was found innocent. I don’t want that to happen to me.

6. Now, 18 years later, the man who assaulted me is an instructor of neurology at a prominent children’s hospital. He did a terrible thing to me, once, nearly two decades ago. Should I attempt to ruin his career because of it?

The answer to that is: I don’t know. If I thought he was still assaulting women and my speaking out would contribute to making him stop, I would in a heartbeat.

What he did to me 18 years ago still hurts so much that I would only revisit that assault and expose him publicly if there was a very clear purpose to doing so.

I expect if I did attempt to expose him, I’d be attacked. People would say that it wasn’t an assault because I wanted him to be my boyfriend afterward. They would say I wanted it because I froze and stopped fighting. There are good odds I wouldn’t be believed.

I’ll tell you this: Like Christine Blasey Ford, if the man who assaulted me was nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court, I’d speak up. I don’t think a man who violates a woman that way is qualified to rule on cases of violence against women, or any other aspect of their well-being. I don’t think he could be impartial.

When a victim of sexual crimes comes forward, even if it’s decades after the crime took place, we shouldn’t use her past silence against her as “evidence” to discredit her. That urge to discredit is exactly why it takes so long for some to come forward in the first place.

jill richardson other words flaglerlive Jill Richardson is the author of “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.” She is a columnist for 

40 Responses for “Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault”

  1. Jake says:

    If you don’t report the event immediately, you become complicit.

  2. Percy's mother says:

    “When a victim of sexual crimes comes forward, even if it’s decades after the crime took place, we shouldn’t use her past silence against her as “evidence” to discredit her. That urge to discredit is exactly why it takes so long for some to come forward in the first place”.

    Based on the above-noted quote from the last paragraph of this article, it would seem appropriate to send this to Hillary Clinton, who discredited all Bill Clinton’s accusers, including, and as well as Monica Lewinsky (who was 20 years old at the time). Also, I don’t recall any prominent Democrats standing up in support of Bill Clinton’s accusers (now . . . or at the time).

  3. Mark says:

    I guess playing Dr is now a crime?

  4. Anonymous says:

    In Fords case, all the people (her friends) that she claims knew about it said they didn’t know anything happened. If she is telling the truth, then why doesn’t she testify or bring her friends and others in as witnesses to testify? I don’t believe her story for a second, because she is a paid Anti-Trump snowflake looking to discredit another person and try and make a quick dime!

  5. Anonymous resident says:

    @moribs how do you figure a victim becomes complicit? I am not one of these #me too movement women. BUT if someone is forcibly raped I take a stand. How the heck is a traumatized woman complicit for not reporting the rape? That is one of the dumbest comments yet.

  6. Well... says:

    You are not complicit if you don’t report it…have you been raped? Have you? Do you have any idea what it’s like to be stripped of your dignity, your self, and suddenly suspect everyone that comes near you as being malevolent? What about trying to say something and being told, “he would never do that, he’s too nice of a boy,” or “are you sure that’s what really happened,” which sends your brain into overdrive analyzing what happened, thinking about it again and again, re-traumatizing yourself because no one believes you…so why should you believe yourself?

    This is not a black and white area where you have two possible options. It is muddled and the grayest of gray because no matter what you do, it’ll never go away. The nightmares that wake you up. The mistrust of others. Constantly remaining on edge ready to run. Never letting your guard down for even a second…even with someone you love or that loves you. You try pushing it deep into the back of your mind but then you wake up in a cold sweat, crying, and then you open your eyes and see his face.

    I was talked out of reporting what happened to me…I was a kid. I had no parents anymore, no guardians, no one I could trust, except my so-called friends. They twisted everything around and convinced me that nothing bad actually happened. The counselors at school were no better. Oftentimes, it’s not just women not wanting to report what happened but being strong-armed in a small town where everyone knows everyone from the Sheriff down to the few homeless people hanging out behind a McDonald’s. Sometimes entire towns know and make sure their own are protected. If you think that is not true then, A. You’ve never lived in a small town, and B. You’ve never been assaulted by someone with a chance to get out and do something with his life. What about my dreams? My life? It’s been 20 years and other people I’ve known have long faded from my memories, but not him…he will always be there.

  7. Anonymous says:

    It can be difficult for some to come forward, but like anything else in this dog-eat-dog world, you have to be strong and fight. For many years there have been resources and organizations to help victims gain courage. There has to be a line somewhere for allegations, and that is why there is a statute of limitations. It’s obvious this is just a last-ditch dirty trick.

  8. Pogo says:

    @Jill Richardson

    I believe you. And I thank you for expounding on this topic so eloquently.


    ‘Millions of Us Have Your Back’: #DearProfessorFord Goes Viral as Women Nationwide Take Stand for Kavanaugh Accuser

    “You are not alone. You are a survivor. And millions of us have your back.”

    by Jake Johnson, staff writer

    Time is up for the target demographic of Fox and Fools, Drudge, and the Republican base. Good riddance.

    I’m Christine Blasey Ford

  9. palmcoaster says:

    Professor Ford did the right thing bringing the tragic incident perpetrated against her to the public. The reason as I see is because that man will be appointed to the highest court in our country and for life! And what kind of justice he will embrace then? While Kavanaugh was not to be a justice of our USA she could live with her secret…but elevating that man to such a hierarchy is what promoted Ms Ford to come out and speak defending us all for what the US Supreme Court will become with such an appointment.

  10. Sherry says:

    Annnnnnd. . . again, those who are so fear fill and incredibly personally unhealthy themselves. . . you know, those who are addicted to FOX, use guns to settle disputes, use the bible as a weapon, are far removed from their own human feelings such as compassion and kindness. . .

    Here they are again. . . disbelieving, judging, and blaming the victim. . . again. May you NEVER need to come down from your despicable self -righteous place and vitally need any kind of understanding and compassion yourselves. For you are “perfect”. . . right?

    May you reap the destiny you are sowing for yourselves. Those like you will NOT be there for you in your time of need. Those like me are the only ones you can even hope to help you. But, you are PERFECT. . . so just continue to delude yourselves. . . and, make sure you keep that gun close by.

    I, too, am “Christine Blasey Ford”.!!!!

  11. Trailer Bob says:

    So, I guess it is alright to make up a story about someone and have those of a different political party assume it is true with zero evidence. Even her supposed friends say it never happened in their memories. Wake up and see reality, not just hate for the other political side.

  12. oldtimer says:

    What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty? I’m not discrediting Ford but, and this is important, so far this is an accusation not a fact.

  13. 101 says:

    This is a man’s world, and it is so sad to say it but it is, and men still treat women like their, there property and can do whatever they want with them. And God forbid a women speaks up and tells the truth of abuse, they are dragged through the coals and then treated as though they are lying just to destroy the poor old men’s career.
    When will this change, sad to say probably never.

    Donald Trump said it all on that tape in Hollywood.

  14. Michael Cocchiola says:

    Yeah, Mark, it is highly inappropriate and if carried forward to forceful sexual intimidation and assault, it’s a crime.

    But most of all, there are those among us who would dismiss sexual assault as merely child’s play (doctor?) or a youthful indiscretion or just being a “man”. None of that excuses unwanted sexual aggression. It’s wrong morally and legally in every sense. I can only hope we punish Brett Kavanaugh with a resounding ‘No” vote so he finally understands the meaning of the word.

  15. Nancy N. says:

    Just because a woman’s “supposed friends” didn’t know she was assaulted doesn’t mean she wasn’t assaulted. Many, many women keep these things a secret and tell NO ONE. Because, you know, they are afraid of responses EXACTLY LIKE IS HAPPENING NOW!!!!

    “What were you wearing?”
    “Were you drinking?”
    “Did you go there alone with him?”
    “Did you lead him on?”
    “You must have misinterpreted.”

    It’s ALWAYS made out to be the woman’s fault, whether she comes forward the day after or thirty years after.

  16. Agkistrodon says:

    Lot of people talking about abusive people in the GOP. What about Mr Keith Ellison. I personally think any male that would put his hands on a female or sexually assaults or rape a female should be afforded the most serious and final punishment. I also feel the same way about any female that does the same to a male. If a person commits these acts once, they WILL do it again. HOWEVER innocence or guilt is something for a COURT to decide, not You or I or some person on a talk show that states someone is probably guilty. I don’t know about you but the term probably guilty when there is no credible Evidence, to me sounds a lot like a society that is NOT representative of OUR Constitution and Laws.

  17. Dave Floyd says:

    Ford is left wing California professor who marched in an anti Trump rally. This was planned and paid for. She hired an attorney and took a polygraph in advance and waited for 36 years to make up this story just before Kavanaugh was to be voted on. The release of this accusation, 1 week before Kavanaugh was to be voted in, stinks to high heaven. If you think all these events are coincidences, you must love the Clintons.

  18. just me says:

    How do we KNOW what happened when the woman at the center said she doesn’t even know the where it happend the when it happend. After some 33 years with NO other evidence NO other corroborating witness NEVER saynig such happend 33 years back HOW do we pass judgment against this man?? Now if their was a pattern of such even without any legal convictions I would say he is not fit. There have been MANY women from his past openly testifying on his GOOD conduct within there life experience with him. In a just world he would be confirmed BUT this is Congress and …..

  19. Anony says:

    This makes me wonder about how many judges, lawyers and politicians have actually sexually assaulted or raped someone before, even if only once. They would be unworthy of holding such judgemental positions making laws.

  20. Anonymous says:

    A lot of dirt is going to come out on Ford in the coming days and a lot of people are going to have egg on their faces.

  21. Sherry says:

    Those who equate such such a sexual “attack” to just “playing doctor” are themselves quite sick, and should seek help immediately!

    Yes. . . Anony. . . I agree, ALL those who have sexually assaulted or raped. . . “even if only once” (GOOD GOD!). . . are NOT worthy of holding such judgemental positions, (and) making laws!

    “IF” Kavanaugh is sooooo innocent . . . why isn’t he requiring a FBI investigation to clear his name? If Fuhrer trump did not condone, and personally engage in such misogyny (look it up). . . why isn’t he calling for an FBI investigation?

    Why isn’t the Republican Congress requiring that the FBI “reopen” their background check into this candidate for Supreme court? Why can’t they wait for the candidate to be fully vetted?

    The Republican congress waited over 350 days and did NOT give even a hearing to Merrick Garland. . . nominated by Twice Elected President Obama. Now they are cramming Kavanaugh down our throats!

    The FBI should conduct a “full” investigation for the complete facts before the vote is taken on this nominee!

    Call your Congressional Representatives and demand that the FBI conduct the proper investigation immediately!

  22. Fredrick says:

    This tactic will come back to bit the Democrats in the ass. The people who elected Trump will be back at the polls in force at the mid terms. This BS just reduces what little of a wave there would have been to an outgoing blue tide. You liberals will never learn and never understand what happened at the last presidential elections.

  23. Concerned Citizen says:

    As a male who was raised right NO means NO.

    No doesn’t mean I’m drunk so keep pushing. No doesn’t mean I changed my mind for whatever reason then you keep pushing and force your way.

    NO means get the hell off of whoever your trying to force yourself on and find someone who wants it.

    If someone says NO and you keep going then you become a rapist. You sexually assaulted your victim and committed one of the most heinous of crimes.

    Once a rapist is found guilty they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. No plea bargains no probation. Serve your time and become a registered sex offender.

    You ruined someone else’s life by raping that individual. Why should you get a chance at living a normal one?

    When I worked in Law Enforcement nothing was more frustrating than working a sex crime and seeing it get plead down by shyster lawyers and lame judges. That’s where we go wrong. If you commit the crime and are found guilty then sentence accordingly.

  24. Joseph says:

    I don’t believe Ford’s allegations because there is no solid proof what she said happened really happened.

  25. marlee says:

    My friend in OH was being abused and assaulted by her husband and she called the sheriff and he told her to put on a pretty dress and take him out to dinner.

    Those here who don’t believe Dr. Ford have no idea what it is like to be sexually assaulted. It always feels like it’s your fault.
    Ask a guy how he feels after taking advantage.

    Better, yet, ask the guys who never do this how they feel!

  26. Anomymous says:

    Women don’t report assault the majority of the time because they take part in it and know had they not done this or that, or gone here or there, or said this or that the outcome may have been different. The way women dress and make the moves on men seems to always go ignored. When the man responds or takes the bait, then the woman wants to make accusations against him. This is not the case in all situations, but it is in most. A woman is looking for a job advancement, money, a relationship, attention and when they get it, they generate more attention and this is particularly true when the relationship doesn’t get off the ground. Ladies, remember there are lots of apples on the ground that are easy to pick up, but the ones at that top of the tree that are better tasting and fresh require more work and those are the apples that are quality apples. Getting all these boob jobs and wearing clothes to attract is for nothing more but to troll. If you don’t want the reaction that brings and the reputation of being an apple on the ground that no one wants to keep, change your ways!! This ME TOO and victim crap is way over rated. Even Elizabeth Smart over came it and she was truly a victim…she is classy not trashy.

  27. Richard says:

    I agree with Oldtimer, what happened to the constitutional right of being INNOCENT until proven GUILTY? I guess if you are convicted in social media then you are GUILTY until proven INNOCENT. What a bunch of BS!

  28. Sherry says:

    “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” does NOT apply in this case. This is a “job interview”. . . NOT a court of law!

    The question is whether this person is the “BEST” person for a “lifetime” position on the Supreme Court.

    There are now TWO unrelated allegations of sexual abuse against Kavanaugh. One from high school and one from college. His accusers have had their lives completely turned upside down and actually “threatened” because they have stepped forward with their accusations. Why in the world would anyone bring that kind of horrific distress into their lives unless they had actually gone through such an ordeal and felt their story needed to be told?

    Christine Ford has offered to take a lie detector test. Why hasn’t Kavanaugh?

    Christine Ford’s husband and psychologist could confirm her story, but the Republicans will not allow them to testify. Why Not?

    Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, who was a witness to the alleged attack, should be compelled to testify or to be interviewed by the FBI. Why are the Republicans stopping that from happening?

    There should be a thorough investigation by the FBI into both of the allegations. Why haven’t the Republicans called for that investigation?

    Those who are clearly misogynists themselves can call these allegations BS until the cows come home. . .
    but, that doesn’t make this politicized travesty of justice OK.

    Women Will Rise Up! VOTE BLUE!!!

  29. gmath55 says:

    Fox News is number one! CNN is bs Even CNN producer says it is bs. They do it to get ratings which btw are behind the cartoon network. That’s right the cartoon network has better ratings then CNN. Nickelodeon (936,000) and CNN (638,000). LOL

    Kavanaugh isn’t calling for an investigation because the FBI don’t do investigations on such matters. Former assistant FBI director Bill Gavin said what investigation?

  30. Katie Semore says:

    If he goes on trial for a criminal offense he will be afforded the protections of INNOCENT until proven GUILTY. As it is now, only the preponderance of evidence is required. So unless and until all the evidence is presented and heard no one with any intelligence can make a valid decision. It does seem as though the republicans only care about confirming him and are hell bent on pushing this through regardless.

  31. 5 decades ago says:

    This is the first time I am telling about my assault 51 years ago. I didn’t tell anyone not even my loving parents. I don’t know the date it happened, I don’t know the address where it happened. But I remember his name and I have never forgotten his face and yet he has been dead for over a decade. I have asked myself a thousand times “What did I do wrong? Why did he choose me?” and I still have no answer.
    There is not statute of limitation for us. Ask the grown men who were abused by priests decades ago if their painful memories have a statute of limitations.
    It is because of the crass and hurtful accusations of people like many who wrote in this column that we continue to be silent. Having been once a victim of a vicious crime is enough, do not victimize us again.
    Thank you Percy’s mother, Well..Says , Pogo, Concerned, Mike and Marlee. You have a heart and a soul.

    I am Christine.

  32. Alphonse Abonte says:

    When debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the losers.

  33. Sherry says:

    Those who think the FBI does not investigate such things are completely WRONG! The FBI “IS” in charge of thoroughly investigating and “vetting” candidates for such positions. Obviously, their “vetting” was incomplete.

    These two accusations. . . and, any other evidence or accusations. . . should be”fully” investigated by the FBI as part of their “vetting” process. If actual “FACTS” still matter. . . if the “TRUTH” matters. . . Congress should be requiring, Kavanaugh should be requiring, trump should be requiring the FBI find the FACTS and the TRUTH.

    However, that is NOT what is playing out here. . . the Republican Congress is bull dozing this highly politicized process through, and advancing a smear campaign against now two women who “should” have a right to be heard by those with “fair” and “open” minds. These women have not even been given the right to have anyone, who could corroborate their stories, testify. So, how in the world are they suppose to “prove” anything?

    The Republican base and Republican Congress seem so “hell bent” on pushing through their “tribal agenda” that they are willing to forget about confirmed FACTS and TRUTH, as long as they get what they want. They are hitting their moral compasses with a sledge hammer, and to hell with “justice”, “ethics”, and “integrity”! Just climb into that gutter of lies, corruption and misogyny with Fuhrer trump!

  34. gmath55 says:

    Amazing! Some people think they know better then the former FBI director Bill Gavin 100 women support Judge Brett Kavanaugh. This is he said, she said aka Jerry Springer Show.

    They went all the way back to high school? Really? What a joke the Democrats have become. Funny she reports it to Diane Finklesting 35 years later instead of law enforcement. The second woman had be drinking and had gaps in here memory.

    What is playing here is a delay tactic by the Democrats! Cry me a river.

  35. Fredrick says:

    If any of you actually think any of these last minute allegations against Kavanaugh are anything but political, I have nothing but pity for your ignorance. About I am impressed by your ability to avoid the truth and live in a fantasy world. Grow up and stop the BS and get on with life. Elections have consequences. Your party has no message, it has nothing, absolutely nothing to offer the American people. This is nothing but your last gasp…..

  36. Sherry says:

    Take a look at this video. . . if you even “care” to try and understand why people who have been sexually abused don’t come forward:

    Can’t wait for the next 2 elections! VOTE BLUE!!!

  37. gmath55 says:

    And, those who want to see a video on the Democrats’ hypocrisy on Kavanaugh:

    CNN Fake News. They lie to try to boost their ratings. However, that’s not working. Currently Fox News is number one! And, where is CNN? According to TVNewser they are 10th for prime time and in total day they are 7th. The Top Basic Cable Networks for July 2018 Are …

  38. gmath55 says:

    What does Joe Biden say?
    Biden in 1991: The FBI ‘Do Not Reach Conclusions’ When Investigating Sexual Misconduct “The reason why we cannot rely on the FBI report [is] you would not like it if we did because it is inconclusive. They say, ‘He said, she said, and they said. Period.”

  39. Jake says:

    @sherry, you keep pointing to blasey as the victim. You have no proof, other than your left sided views. Just because she’s a woman, doesn’t make her right. It’s noted you are siding with a lynch mob. When her allegations are proven false, will you be apologizing to Judge Kavanaugh?

  40. Sherry says:

    Now. . . a third woman has just stepped forward! How many is it going to take for the Republican Congress to understand Kavanaugh is unfit? Here is her statement:

    “I witnessed Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh drink excessively and engage in highly inappropriate conduct, including being overly aggressive with girls and not taking ‘No’ for an answer. This conduct included the fondling and grabbing of girls without their consent,” Swetnick writes.

    “I also witnessed efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and others to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could then be ‘gang raped’ in a side room or bedroom by a ‘train’ of numerous boys … These boys included Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh … In approximately 1982, I became the victim of one of these ‘gang’ or ‘train’ rapes where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present,” she added.

    Two, or 20 “wrongs still do not make a right”! Just because members of Congress did not take these kinds of things seriously enough before, does NOT mean they should not do so now! This is a new century and a new age. Women are rising up and demanding equal justice!


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