When I was sixteen years old, I got my first job at Burger King, and one day, a good-looking guy came through the drive-thru and I asked one of my coworkers if she would dare me to put my phone number into his bag of food. That night, he called me and asked me to go to a party with him and a bunch of his friends. Without a thought in my head that anything bad might happen to me, I went. On the way home, he sexually assaulted me. Not only did I not report it, I told no one for a very long time. I felt dirty, ashamed and guilty. I have since learned that reporting the crime is relatively rare. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), out of every 1,000 rapes, 310 are reported to police, 57 lead to arrest, 11 cases get referred to prosecutors, 7 cases lead to conviction and 6 people are incarcerated. Six people? Out of 1,000? What the h***?
According to the article, “How the Criminal Justice System is Failing Sexual Assault Victims”, reasons women give for not reporting the crime are “fear of retaliation from the rapist; feelings of shame and embarrassment; a belief that the rape was a minor incident and not a police matter; and a concern that police and prosecutors would question their veracity and credibility.” When I was a rape crisis counselor in the 90’s, my role was to help victims through the process of a physical examination and an interview with police. Oftentimes they needed the support of a rape crisis counselor because victims were interrogated almost as much as the perpetrator might be.
What no one is saying in regards to underreporting or bad police tactics, is how often alcohol or other drugs are involved in the rape story. Rapists justify raping a drunk victim because she was “asking for it”, victims feel their own drinking clouded their judgment and negates their credibility, and police discount the crime aspect of rape when alcohol is involved. The real problem is that rape is not treated as other crimes are. How many victims of robbery are asked if they were drinking first? Do the police take a homicide any less seriously if drugs or alcohol were involved? Then why is rape so easily dismissed by the criminal justice system? Something is seriously wrong.
The infamous swimmer, Brock Turner, who raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster when he was 20 years old and only served a three-month prison sentence, was mentioned in an article, 5 Offenses that will land you in jail longer than Brock Turner, and the following crimes were considered serious enough to give you a year’s term in jail: driving with a suspended license, vandalism, trespassing, two marijuana possession charges, and possessing steroids.
What does it say to a rape victim to hear these things? The obvious answer is: “I am not valued. I am not listened to. I am worthless. I am partially responsible. It’s my fault really.” If you had a daughter, would you want her to feel those things about herself? Especially if a crime had been committed against her?
I guarantee the outcome will not be different in the criminal justice system until the outcry of citizens to their lawmakers is equal to the heart cry of rape and sexual assault victims worldwide. Since every 98 seconds, someone is a victim of a sexual assault, that is a lot of crying to overcome.