Dear Future President
As a senior at Judge Memorial, I'm writing to you about the issue of sexual assault on women. In the 1992, Rape in America: A Report to the Nation, the National Victim Center defined rape as “the most underreported violent crime in America.” Sexual assault has been around for centuries and has continually been something we’ve avoided discussing. By writing this letter, I'm hoping that we will somehow, as a community, learn to quit brushing it under the rug and finally realize how serious of an issue it is.
Every year, as stated by the CDC, the highest number of women to be sexually assaulted is estimated at 1.3 million, and according to the Department of Justice, the lowest is estimated at 300,000. It's truly sickening to think that, although these numbers seem very high, 54 percent of rapes aren't even reported. This means that the 1.3 million could realistically be around as high as 2.6 million. This raises the question, why are women so hesitant to report sexual assault? Sexual assault can result in intense feelings of humiliation, denial, shame and self-doubt. As stated on globalnews.ca, 39% of victims who reported a sexual assault to the police felt abandoned, while another 39% felt devastated. Overall, 71% felt that reporting to the police was nothing but a negative experience. This can ultimately result in the victim’s silence for decades and for some it takes them that long just to acknowledge that it truly happened. As hard as it can be to report any sexual assault, on a college campus it can be even harder. TIME Magazine’s 2014 article, Why Victims of Rape in College Don’t Report to the Police, stated that 21% of physically forced victims and 12% of incapacitated victims did not report because they felt the police wouldn’t take the crime seriously; in addition, 13% of forced victims and 24% of incapacitated victims feared that the police would treat them poorly. This wasn’t too far from the truth because according to research done by the U.S. Department of Justice, only 18% of reported rapes resulted in a conviction. Victims, especially those in college, know that when reporting rape, there’s a serious social risk. At a small or midsize college, the victim is likely to know their rapist. It can be undoubtedly difficult to re-integrate after a report and the victim can ultimately lose friends or become a social leper.
According to RAINN, 1 out of every 6 American women has fallen victim to an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Females from ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. Women 18-24 attending college are 3 times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence. In each case, we wonder, who is society most likely to blame? The victim. Victim blaming has often be sold as “common sense” safety tips in the form of ‘don’t wear this’, ‘don’t go there’, or ‘don’t drink that’. One reason we victim blame is to distance ourselves from an unpleasant confrontation. By accusing the victim, we can perceive ourselves as different from them. We’re reassured by thinking that “Because I am not like her, because I don’t do that, this would never happen to me.” We need to show that this is not a healthy or helpful reaction. Victim-blaming attitudes alienate the survivor and make it more difficult to come forward and report the assault. If the victim knows that they’ll be blamed for it, they won’t feel as safe or comfortable coming forward and talking about it.
These facts are nothing but harsh, however, by writing this letter to you, I'm hoping that it will soon influence a change in our society. I believe that any form of sexual assault should be stopped and that we should do everything in our own power to help victims feel safe enough to ask for help. It is not the victim’s fault or responsibility to fix the situation; it’s the abuser’s choice. If we can learn this and teach those after us, we can impact the way we mend, and ultimately restore the power to the voices of the victims.
Thank you for your time and I hope that you consider the statistics and somehow initiate a change.