3 Sad Truths About Sexual Assault

In late September, millions of Americans watched the Brett Kavanaugh Senate Judiciary Hearing regarding the sexual assault allegations brought on by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Ford gave her testimony first, and she spoke calmly, trying to fight back tears. She answered questions thrown at her by a Republican-appointed prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, and she came across as a credible witness who said that she "100%" believed Kavanaugh had tried to rape her when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh testified next, and he passionately argued that he did not discredit that Ford had been assaulted but that it was not him. He presented proof that he had not been at the party at the time Ford said she was assaulted, and like Ford, he also appeared credible.

The outcry by Republicans and Democrats about this hearing were astounding. People who saw the exact same testimonies and were given the same information interpreted the events in different ways. Republicans felt that Ford may have been assaulted but that she got the wrong guy. Democrats vehemently believed the victim and therefore assumed Kavanaugh was a liar. The divisive hearing was a stark reminder of how differently people can think and how differently women and men are treated in this country.

Studies have shown that people who lean conservative view the world as one that needs to be protected. They see threats. They hate change because change has the probability of being terrible. Because of this point of view, they prefer hierarchy and established norms. Liberals, on the other hand, view the world as one of cooperation, and one that will be better with equality. Because the world is not equal, they constantly make moves to change it to meet this ideal.

As the #MeToo movement and the Kavanaugh-Ford hearing has shown, women of all races, ages, and classes are not always safe from predatory men. Women who stay silent are not usually believed if they ever come forward, and women who report right away may be retraumatized by the public or justice system only to see their assailant walk free.

The Kavanaugh hearing is a reminder that not all people believe women when it comes to sexual assault, and this has been a sad truth for decades. And while I wish that I could write a positive post about how victims can protect themselves or fight back, in instances of sexual violence, there are no guarantees of safety, no easy steps to take after a wrong has been committed, and no real solution for this problem on the horizon.

So what can women do to cope with this societal message that their bodies are not valued as much as men's? One thing to do is to continuously talk about safety and gender and to know that whatever actions they take that it is not their fault and that others have experienced the same thing.

3 Facts About Sexual Assault 

1. Sexual assaults are usually caused by someone you know
In cases where a sober woman is raped by a stranger, juries and the public are usually automatically outraged, and the perpetrator is usually found guilty. But in the US, one in five women are assaulted by someone they knew.

2. Most victims do not immediately report their sexual assaults to law enforcement
Because most sexual assaults are caused by family members, friends, or acquaintances, many women who are naturally agreeable tend to keep the trauma to themselves or only share with a few confidantes. These victims tend to not want to "cause trouble," and they think that the situation will either not be resolved, won't happen again, or is not a big deal. Whatever their reasoning, this desire to not punish their abusers results in two out of three victims not going to the police or other authorities right away.

3. Victims who do come forward are often scrutinized more than the assailants
For women who immediately report rape or sexual assault, their lives are not easier than women who chose to stay silent. Women who undergo rape kits, an invasive forensic medical examination after a sexual assault, don't always receive justice. There are thousands of rape kits that are untested by police departments, and even if a rape kit is performed, the woman must then prove that the sex was not consensual, something that is hard to do if the sexual assault occurred while inebriated and with a friend or acquaintance. In the US, less than 20% of reported rapes lead to an arrest and only 2% ever end in a conviction.