Women voice opinions on sexual assault reports

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(THE PICKET)—Women at Shepherd University say they are not surprised that about 70 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.

“Women want to forget it ever occurred and feel shame about having had it happen,” said Julia Athey, 20, a junior English literature and business major. “Or they don’t report it due to the fear that they won’t be believed or that people will judge them for what’s happened.”

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, which is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the U.S. and created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline, attributes the most common reasons behind the low reporting as belief that rape is a personal matter, a belief of reprisal by the attacker and the belief that police will not believe them.

Caroline Kirkpatrick, 20, a junior secondary English education major, points to the stigmatization that rape victims often feel.

“They have a fear of public reaction. It is stigmatized that people will say it is their own fault or that they were asking for it or any other reason, instead of searching for the person who did it,” Kirkpatrick said. “Most people see assault as something women cause when it is something that people in general cause. There is a lot of ‘well, you asked for it’ rather than ‘well, let’s find a solution.’”

Women also fear they won’t be believed, said Hayleigh McAllister, 20, a junior English major with a creative writing concentration.

“I think some women either think that no one will believe them or that they’re ashamed of themselves because they think they let it happen to themselves,” she said. “In today’s society, we spend so much time telling women not to do something because men will think they’re asking for it. But somehow we never get around to telling men not to touch women without their permission. It’s an extremely revolting and upsetting situation.”

Leah Jenkins, 42, a senior English secondary education major, also said that women fear they won’t be believed.

“I think that women do not report sexual assaults because they are afraid and do not want to deal with it or the possible repercussions if they report it, and also that they do not want to have the stigma of being ‘that woman who was assaulted’ and have people look at her differently,” Jenkins said. “It opens a woman up to the people who say she is lying and those that pity her, and neither is a comfortable state of existence.”

Keegan Brewster is a staff writer for The Picket. She can be reached at kbrews01@rams.shepherd.edu and followed on Twitter @keequinnb