When the topic of sexual assault comes up, women are often asked why they didn't come forward to report their assault. As one woman's experience demonstrates, reporting isn't always that simple. In a series of tweets on Saturday, writer Ariana Lenarsky shared a frustrating story about an incident in which she was groped on a plane. As she was boarding her flight, Lenarsky explained, she felt someone grab and stroke her leg. When she informed the flight attendants, she found out that they had already been alerted to that particular passenger by other women who had already complained. So, Lenarsky decided to live-tweet the story as it unfolded mid-air.
However, since the plane was already in the air, it was too late for the man to be removed from the flight.
Though the man in question was taken off the plane by police, and Lenarsky and another woman who reported him gave their statements, their experiences reveal the complications of dealing with assault.
As Lenarsky explained, since the incident took place on a plane, the ambiguous police jurisdiction meant she would have to pay for her own flight back to Austin, Texas, in order to press charges, and the FBI would have to get involved. After being told that the police would do little more than give the man a "talking to," Lenarsky decided to tweet a photo of him with a message: "You can't grab women on a plane, guy."
Lenarsky's experience reveals a frustrating truth about the murkiness of sexual assault on planes and elsewhere, but it also points to a larger problem about why women don't always report instances of sexual assault. In fact, it's estimated that about two out of every three incidents of assault go unreported. As you can see from Lenarsky's story, there are often complications that can discourage assault survivors from reporting. In many cases, survivors actually fear retaliation, and/or they believe that the police will do little to help (as evidenced in this scenario), and/or they don't feel that the incident was important enough to report, among many other reasons. Though Lenarsky's assaulter was unfortunately not brought to justice, her tweets help to break down the stigma around reporting sexual assault. While we have a long way to go in terms of helping survivors, hopefully, as discussions like this continue, we can see fewer incidents like the ordeal she went through.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).