To Report or Not To Report: Pouring fuel into the “Blaming the Victim” machine

Reporting rape and seeking help are probably the most delicate issues that the survivors of sexual assault face. Today we want to talk about these issues and present an inspirational piece to our readers.

According to Nicole Gillum, Sexual Trauma Specialist at STAR, statistics in Baton Rouge, LA, match the national statistics. Only about 5% of cases get reported. And there are some reasons for that. “It’s because survivors are afraid they are not going to be believed. There is a lot of fear – fear of not being believed and judgment from law enforcement, family and friends, fear that the perpetrator is going to come back after them for reporting. If survivors were engaged in any kind of risky behavior during the assault, for instance drinking underage or doing drugs, they are less likely to report. Shame and embarrassment are other reasons,” Ms. Gillum says.

One of the most frequent reasons of not reporting, however, is that victims don’t even realize that what happened to them was actually a rape.

“If they’re out on a date, and they’re with somebody they know, not even on a date but just hanging out, and let’s say they start kissing and maybe they’ve both been drinking, she starts to pull away, and tells him ‘no’, but he continues. That is rape, because ‘no’ means ‘no’ at any point. But some people just don’t see that. Victims feel responsible for it. They think that if they had not been drinking, it would not have happened,” Nicole Gillum clarifies.

According to Ms. Gillum, most of the time, about 95% of the cases, the victim knows the person, who might be someone from the friends circle, a family member, current boyfriend, a previous partner, the spouse, etc. This also makes it difficult for the victim to report.

There are numerous reasons why not to report and only one to report: It will probably be a lot easier for the survivors to overcome the trauma and not carry it on their shoulders all their life, while being chained by silence, if they realize that it was actually NOT THEIR FAULT and that the rapist had to be punished like any other criminal.

Related to this topic, decades after its release, “The Accused” (1988, R rated) is still a must see. It’s amazing how a quarter of a century after the movie was actually released little has changed in the society when it comes to assigning blames.

Michael Neumann, reviewer on IMDB, makes this perfectly clear in his comment: “The shocking true story of a bar room gang rape is lifted from the headlines to become, with dramatic license, a serious and troubling study of sexism at its worst, when the victim herself is accused of ‘asking for it’. Jodie Foster offers a courageous performance as the tough but vulnerable Sarah Tobias, whose behavior on the night of the crime was certainly provocative, but as the flashback re-enactment shows all too clearly no amount of provocation could justify such a brutal response. Up until those final scenes the film is a well-crafted but largely conventional topical drama, with lots of predictable bonding between Foster and her conscience stricken attorney Kelly McGillis. But the attack itself, teasingly saved until the final reel, is so graphic and degrading it obliterates the memory of everything that happened earlier. The scene is pure exploitation, but it serves a purpose, putting audiences in the same, ugly position as the cheering onlookers in the bar, who in many ways were even guiltier than the rapists themselves.” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094608/reviews?start=10)

One thing is made clear in this movie. Rape cannot be justified in any condition. If there is force, harm, humiliation and no agreement, it’s sexual assault. Survivors of sexual assault usually find it difficult to talk about it, to report it, to make it public, because they are afraid to be blamed, but not Sarah Tobias. One thing about Sarah that deserves praise is that she knows, no matter how others would view it, she knows it for sure, she did not “ask for it”.

Submitted by Victoria Mirzoyan

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