Posted by: joshjasper | December 5, 2009

Fear and Silence

According to the U.S Department of Justice, rape is the violent crime least often reported.  In fact, the FBI estimates that only 37% of rapes that occur annually are reported to the police. This reporting rate drops to 10% when the offender is a friend or acquaintance. A variety of reasons exist to explain the underreporting of this vicious crime.

Often time victims mistakenly blame themselves for the assault. We live in a society in which the victim is often scrutinized when she reports a rape.  For instance, the rape shield law was written to specifically protect sexual assault victims from being cross-examined about their past sexual behavior; however, frequently the sexual history of the victims are still called into question by not only the criminal justice system, but also by the community at large.

Additionally, many victims choose not to report in order to avoid the further victimization that takes place after a rape charge is filed. Imagine having to report the most horrific experience of your life repeatedly to complete strangers, knowing that you may not be believed. Furthermore, how difficult would it be to report a crime for which the evidence is often nonexistent and the conviction rate is so low? 

Fear of a person’s confidentiality being compromised is another deterrent in reporting sexual violence. To help maintain the confidentiality of a victim, most newspapers and news stations do not disclose the name of a victim.  In small communities, however, victims are often identified through other details of the story even though their name is not mentioned. 

In order to increase reporting of sexual violence, we must first acknowledge that this type of violence is a major public health issue in our community. Victims must be believed, and at no time should they be blamed for being assaulted.  Victims also need to trust that everyone involved with their case, including the media, will make a concerted effort to protect their confidentiality.  Finally, we must encourage those affected by this heinous crime to speak out and receive the assistance they deserve.

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