Advocates draw attention to why sexual assaults go unreported

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN—The multiple allegations of sexual misconduct surrounding US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is perhaps the biggest story of the week. But as Kavanaugh’s accusers come under increasingly intense scrutiny, experts are drawing attention to why so many victims of sexual assault may have difficulty with sharing their experience until years after the trauma occurred.

Kristen Pulice, the chief operating officer for the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault says the reasons can be as varied as the victims themselves.

“One is fear that they will not be believed and that is evident throughout our society victim blaming is a huge problem,” Pulice said.

In many cases Pulice says fear can promote feelings of shame and guilt, which can lead to survivors feeling victimized all over again.

“We often say why were they doing this? Why were they doing that? What were they wearing? Why were they drinking? We blame victims,” Pulice said.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network only 310 of every 1000 rapes are reported. Of those 310 reports, there are less than 60 arrests made.  Even fewer are prosecuted, and even fewer lead to conviction or jail time.

“Our society, while very well intentioned has an innocent until proven guilty mentality and what that does is it really puts a lot of burden on the victims to prove their experience,” University of Indianapolis associate professor of psychology Lisa Elwood said.

Elwood adds that the very experience of a sexual assault can leave survivors with a form of PTSD, which can result in difficulty remembering the trauma, a desire to avoid talking about it, and self-blame.

“And so these things that are part of the reaction to the trauma are used against the victims as reasons to doubt,” Elwood said.

Both Elwood and Pulice  say victims often don’t report out of fear of not being believed. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center found, between 2 percent and 10 percent of all reports are false.

For more information on resources for victims of sexual assault, you can click here.

Victims can also call The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673

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