I don’t know if Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Supreme Court nominee, sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford in 1982. Neither does President Donald Trump.
But that didn’t stop him Friday from taking to Twitter to make an all-too-familiar statement that comes up when decades-old assault claims surface: Why didn’t she report the attack at the time?
“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. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time and place!” Trump tweeted.
Not reporting an assault is far from rare. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. The National Institute of Justice reports that between 1992 and 2000 “only 36 percent of rapes, 34 percent of attempted rapes and 26 percent of sexual assaults were reported.”
The sad truth is that many women are as afraid of reporting their assault as they are of what took place.
Ford has received death threats as a result of her coming forward about the alleged attack. Kavanaugh has also received threats, which may lead some to cast this off as people reacting negatively to a polarizing, public news story.
However, those who accuse public figures of assault aren’t the only ones harmed.
Last week, The Washington Post released a story, “What do we owe her now?” that details the devastating result of an Arlington, Texas, teenager reporting being raped in 2006.
Despite clear evidence supporting the victim’s side of the story against the alleged attackers — detailed throughout the story — the case never went to trial.
The town sided with the attackers to the point the victim was bullied out of the regular school and into an alternative school setting. A vulgar acronym about her was painted on cars driving around town, and she was verbally attacked and threatened. All because she reported that she had been raped.
What the story does extremely well is help people understand the dilemma of coming forward with assault allegations.
If you’re still not convinced, look at another high profile rape allegation in recent years — the case against former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner.
Turner was caught sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. A judge handed Turner just six months in prison.
The victim had to testify in court, reliving the most traumatic experience of her life in public for Turner to be handed a sentence that frankly doesn’t fit the crime. In a written statement, the victim said, “You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again.”
Aaron Persky, the judge in the case, decided that because friends and family of Turner said he was actually a good guy, that it warranted a lesser punishment.
Why don’t victims report sexual assault right away and sometimes not at all? Because the damage done to the life of the victim can far outweigh the punishment to the attacker.
We scrutinize victims of sexual assault in a way we do not others. That makes the prospect of coming forward frightening.
No matter the validity of the allegations against Kavanaugh, when President Trump perpetuates the idea that if a sexual assault is valid it would be reported right away, it makes it even more difficult for those who have been harmed to feel safe in coming forward.