By: Micaela Stevenson
As a survivor of sexual assault, rape, and an advocate for my brothers and sisters, I have frequently asked one big question: why are so many people getting away with this? Why are so many women never being able to serve justice to the people who do wrong to them? It doesn’t make sense; according to PBS, the FBI lists rape as the second most violent crime in our nation. The first is murder. The answer to that question is extremely detailed, very complex, and really begins with one thing: we’re not reporting.
According to RAINN. org, 68% of rape and sexual assault incidents are not reported to the police. The fact that an overwhelming 2/3 of rapists are people that the victim knows and 38% of people who have committed sexual assault crimes are people who the victim also knows. Why do these go unreported? Well there are many times where the woman is afraid and traumatized by the recent horror she has suffered that makes it difficult for her to be able to tell anyone she even knows well, much less the police. After I was raped, I waited days to even tell my best friend and to this day, my parents do not know. It took me months to tell my boyfriend that I had been sexually assaulted during a church event in Lansing, MI. So we know why women aren’t reporting. They’re embarrassed, they’re scared, and they are highly disillusioned. Someone may blame them for their rape even though no one blames a murder victim for being murdered...
So some victims don’t want to tell anyone what happened. But what about those that do? Well, after someone is raped, they feel very dirty and very upset. So, the first thing they may want to do is take a shower, and change their clothes. They throw their outfits that they’d had on into a washing machine or into the garbage to dispose of memories. They wait a few days, gather their thoughts, and make a decision. They go to the police and with that shower and that washing machine, they’ve washed away all evidence that the rape occurred. And even if these women don’t wait, the rape kit may only display that sex occurred which doesn’t necessarily have to be rape. After a victim has washed their clothes and body, their only hope is a witness. And there aren’t too many of those.
The numbers dwindle with time and processes from the event of the rape to getting to a day in court. So why aren’t more rapists being convicted? Even for the victims who did finally report? Well, there’s no evidence. And our criminal justice system relies on evidence to bring forth justice rather than just a victim’s word. This is a good thing in general; if someone says I murdered their brother and I didn’t and there’s no evidence that I did, I don’t want to go to jail for that. But this also means that thousands of women every year are not seeing the justice they desperately need to see and another rapist or sexual assault criminal is lurking through our communities. According to a 2011 article in Ms. Magazine, an estimated number of 300,000 women are raped or sexually assaulted annually according to FBI reports. This number has only been climbing in the recent years.
To keep this from continuing in the future, criminal justice systems need to urge people to develop better technology to see if rape or sexual assault has occurred. Mothers need to teach their sons not to rape and not to sexually assault women. Fathers need to teach their sons that “no” means “no” and not “convince me” or “I’m just playing hard to get”. Parents need to teach their sons to recognize that consenting is more important than not refusing; refusing can be non verbal. And we need to believe our victims. Because only 2% of victims are lying when they have been raped. Which means there’s a 98% chance that a victim that says they have been raped is actually telling the truth. And that’s close enough to 100%.