After five days of relative restraint, President Trump unleashed a series of tweets on Friday about the sexual assault allegations against his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and called out accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford by name.
Trump accused Dr. Ford of failing to report her assault right away, tweeting, "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!"
His tweets inspired sexual assault survivors to share the many valid reasons they didn't report their assaults under the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport.
He was the nephew of my father’s girlfriend at the time & was older & stronger than me. It started when I was 7 & I thought he’d hurt me more & that nobody would believe me. It took 4 years to break the silence. He was abusing other kids too, I later found out. #WhyIDidntReport— deray (@deray) September 21, 2018
I was 17. Raped by a friend. I was confused. In denial. Afraid. His parents were richer & better connected than my parents. He was a "good" student. Ppl liked him. The only friend I told--responded w: "He wld never do that." I didn't think anyone would help me. #WhyIDidntReport https://t.co/YbCuIMg07M— Abigail Hauslohner (@ahauslohner) September 21, 2018
When I was 16, I had pretty much the same experience as Ford. My (supportive & loving) parents still don't know. At the time, I thought I might get in trouble for being there in the first place & also I was embarrassed & wanted badly to just forget. I never did. #WhyIDidntReport— maura quint (@behindyourback) September 21, 2018
#WhyIDidntReport my sexual assault.— Peter Morley (@morethanmySLE) September 21, 2018
I was living in a time when someone who identified as a gay teenager would NOT be taken seriously by the police.
I believed that I would be mocked & ridiculed for being gay.
I also felt it was MY fault.
I didn't think they would believe me.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), two out of three sexual assault cases go unreported. Survivors often choose not to report sexual assault and harassment right away, or even at all, for many reasons. Many might fear they won't be believed, worry about retaliation from the assaulter, or don't trust authorities to handle their cases properly. Not to mention, there's already a huge amount of stigma and shame that comes with sexual assault.
And when people go through something traumatic, their brains often have a hard time "filing" the memories properly, and they may not recognize the incident as problematic until later in life.
Given that since coming forward, Dr. Ford has been sent death threats, it's easy to see why survivors may hesitate in sharing their experiences or reporting assault.
While survivors don't owe anyone their stories, those who tweeted #WhyIDidntReport are making an important point: Society doesn't provide resources for people coming forward about sexual assault. In fact, it often punishes them, and because of that, it's understandable that someone would feel hesitant about making a report.
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).