#WhyIDidntReport: Sexual Assault Survivors Share Their Stories

CONTENT WARNING: This article details sexual assault and child abuse.

Survivors of sexual assault are sharing their stories of why they didn't report their attack, in an effort to highlight the complex reasons why a person might not.

It comes amid frenzied attacks on Christine Ford, who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in the early 1980s. (Note: since this article was published, a second woman has come forward with an allegation of sexual assault against Kavanaugh when he was at college. Kavanaugh has strongly denied both allegations.)

"I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents," said Donald Trump on Twitter.

Survivors are coming forward to counteract this harmful assumption, including actor Alyssa Milano, who wrote that Trump's statement "chilled me to my core".

Writing for Vox, she explained what survivors of sexual assault know all too well that victims know they might not be believed.

"It took me years after my assault to voice the experience to my closest friends. It took me three decades to tell my parents that the assault had even happened. I never filed a police report. I never told officials. I never tried to find justice for my pain because justice was never an option," she wrote.

"For me, speaking up meant reliving one of the worst moments of my life. It meant recognizing my attacker’s existence when I wanted nothing more than to forget that he was allowed to walk on this Earth at all. This is what every survivor goes through. Telling our stories means being vulnerable to public attacks and ridicule when our only “crime” was to be assaulted in the first place."

Survivors of sexual assault are sharing their reasons for not reporting,on Twitter, using the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport. The reasons are as varied as they are horrifyingly familiar: because they were a child and thought they'd done something wrong; because he was popular and beloved by everyone; because he was a family member and they were embarrassed; because they didn't think anyone would believe them.

Patti Davis, the daughter of former US President Ronald Reagan, revealed her own rape in an op-ed for The Washington Post, explaining why she remembers so few details of an incident more than 30 years ago.

"It’s important to understand how memory works in a traumatic event. Ford has been criticized for the things she doesn’t remember, like the address where she says the assault happened, or the time of year, or whose house it was. But her memory of the attack itself is vivid and detailed. His hand over her mouth, another young man piling on, her fear that maybe she’d die there, unable to breathe. That’s what happens: Your memory snaps photos of the details that will haunt you forever, that will change your life and live under your skin. It blacks out other parts of the story that really don’t matter much."

Statistics from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) organisation shows that just one percent of perpetrators of sexual violence are incarcerated for their crimes. The other 99 percent will not.

Source: RAINN.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au

If you would like to speak to someone confidentially about sexual assault, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732. If you are in distress, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.