Top 10 Reasons People Do Not Report Sexual Abuse
Top 10 Reasons People Do Not Report Sexual Abuse
Sep 22, 2020
The #MeToo movement and several major institutional sex abuse cases have inspired survivors to summon the courage required to step forward after experiencing horrific trauma. In 2020, employers, schools, law enforcement, and victim advocates are recognizing the prevalence of sexual abuse and finally listening to survivors (though there is, of course, much improvement yet to be made). The state of California is also offering an avenue to child sexual abuse survivors who were harmed decades ago through landmark legislation known as AB 218. This new bill allows survivors an opportunity to pursue compensation and justice regardless of when the abuse occurred. But even with the progress that has been made in recent years related to sexual abuse reporting, much work remains.
Why is Sexual Abuse So Rarely Reported?
Why do so many people not report sexual abuse? The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) indicates that people rarely lie about being sexually abused, sexually assaulted, or raped. However, many survivors decide to not report abuse to law enforcement. Some reasons for not reporting abuse are fear-based, and some are more personal. Some survivors simply do not believe there will be any benefit to reporting abuse. Furthermore, some may not understand their options and that they are entitled to pursue a civil claim seeking financial damages.
If you contact the Glendale, CA, sexual abuse lawyers at Dordulian Law Group about a sex crime case, we will listen to you, we will believe you, and we will fight to secure you justice. We are dedicated advocates for sexual abuse survivors and have successfully handled countless civil cases. We will do everything in our power to gather documentation, evidence, and witnesses to successfully represent you and help you win your claim.
What Percentage of Sexual Abuse is Not Reported?
It is impossible to accurately gauge the percentage of sexual abuse that is not reported. The NSVRC says an estimated 63% of sexual assaults go unreported. Some other sources cite lower numbers. An older source from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 15.8 to 35% of all sexual assaults are not reported to the police.
The relationship between the victim and their accuser often determines the likelihood of reporting. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, abuse or assault is:
- least likely to be reported if the offender is a current intimate partner or former partner (only 25% of assaults reported to police)
- less likely to be reported if the offender is an acquaintance or friend (only 18 to 40% of assaults reported to police)
- most likely to be reported if the offender is a stranger (between 46 and 66% of assaults reported to police)
Some survivors feel frozen after experiencing abuse and are terrified to contact the police. For other survivors, the decision to not report is initially just a matter of delaying or procrastinating, as many require time to process their feelings following an assault. As time passes, however, they can grow increasingly reluctant to ever address the incident. Eventually, some decide to move on and never report the abuse. Below are some of the reasons why people delay coming forward or never disclose after sexual abuse, sexual assault, or sexual violence:
- Fear of retaliation: Fear of retaliation can include physical abuse, like if a woman is afraid of being physically beaten by a former intimate partner. In a workplace situation, fear of retaliation can be a fear of being demoted, of being denied a promotion, or of being fired. Retaliation is also a huge fear among military sexual assault victims. According to Human Rights Watch, 62% of military service members who experienced unwanted sexual contact and reported it to a military authority faced retaliation due to reporting.
- Shame: Abuse is a humiliating and dehumanizing experience. Many survivors of abuse blame themselves, incorrectly believing distorted stereotypes that insinuate a victim somehow deserves blame based on what they were wearing or what they had to drink. This is an absolutely absurd line of reasoning. People dress to feel comfortable or attractive, not to invite unwanted sexual acts. If someone is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs and unable to consent, it is a crime to engage in a sexual act with them. No one ever asks to be sexually assaulted. Additionally, for boys and men who are sexually assaulted, feelings of powerlessness and humiliation can be overpowering and have lifelong psychological effects.
- Reported an incident to an official who did nothing: Sadly, as is all too common, survivors who previously reported sexual abuse to an individual or authority and no action to take the report seriously was made may feel they have nowhere to turn. A school counselor may downplay violence with an antiquated comment like “boys will be boys.” Deciding to report to law enforcement is entirely your decision, and should not be influenced by anyone else’s comments or opinions. Many survivors who report abuse feel they are able to gain a sense of control over such a harrowing situation, and that newfound control can be helpful in the recovery process. This may also be an avenue to filing a civil claim for sexual abuse (all California residents who are victims of sexual abuse may file both criminal and civil lawsuits against their perpetrators), which is especially important in situations where an institution employed the perpetrator. If you are looking to report abuse, call a DLG SAJE Team member directly at 800-880-7777, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). In most areas, law enforcement officers trained to interact with sexual assault survivors are available.
- Not significant enough to report: People may not report sexual abuse if the act has been downplayed or minimized, with many survivors reported they were coerced into believing “nothing actually happened.” Force may not always be physical; it may be threatening to hurt someone for not participating in a sexual act. Without proof, this may feel insignificant. However, unless someone is a law enforcement officer, attorney, or judge, they may not be qualified to determine what is “nothing” and what is a legitimate misdemeanor or felony. One survey published in NPR found that just 20% of college campus sexual assault survivors actually reported to the police. Of those, 12% who were student victims indicated they thought the incident was “not important enough to report.”
- Belief that the police could/would not do anything to help: Survivors may not report abuse because they do not feel there will be a benefit. If they do not believe the police can or will do anything to help, they may see reporting abuse as a waste of time, energy, and emotions. This can happen when people see other survivors receive no help from law enforcement. At DLG, we have multiple former law enforcement officials on our Dordulian Law Group SAJE Team staff (including Samuel Dordulian, former Deputy District Attorney for LA County and sex crimes prosecutor, and Moses Castillo, former sex crimes division detective with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Together, they ensure each and every survivor’s case is handled discreetly, strategically, and professionally.
- Did not want to get offender in trouble with the law: An estimated seven percent of sexual abuse survivors do not want the offender to get in trouble with the law. This can be in an intimate partner violence situation where one fears the loss of financial support. Survivors may not report abuse if they cared about their abuser and are conflicted about the justification for criminal charges. If the violence resulted from a fight, the survivor may feel they contributed in some way.
- Did not want family or friends to know: For some families/cultures, discussing sexuality can be extremely difficult. Teenagers may fear punishment from parents for breaking the rules or being outcast by their social group, especially if the perpetrator is well liked by others. Parents who are not immediately told about abuse may feel betrayed to learn, often years later, that they were not trusted as confidants, which often creates challenges to a parent-child relationship.
- Fear of the justice system: Fears about the effectiveness of the criminal justice system are not unfounded. According to RAINN, out of every 1,000 rapes, only six rapists will ever spend a day in jail. These statistics do not instill confidence in the justice system. For more on sexual battery and sexual assault, and how they can be charged either as a misdemeanor or felony, see our recent blog post, Types of Sexual Assault Laws in California.
- Feel the crime was not “serious enough”/ fear of lack of evidence: Unless you are a lawyer, you are not in a position to determine if evidence is “good enough.” That’s why it’s so important to contact a DLG sexual abuse attorney immediately after the crime. We will present you with all available options and answer any questions you have. It is also possible that your partial testimony may be corroborated by someone who witnessed and reported the crime, or that the perpetrator is being investigated for another, similar crime. If you decide to pursue a civil claim, your act of reporting the abuse to law enforcement is evidence by itself.
- Feel that too much time has passed: Some survivors may resign themselves to the notion of keeping the abuse a secret forever because they believe it’s too late for any justice to be had. They may regret not reporting the abuse when it first happened, but feel there would be no benefit in doing so now (what, in many cases, is years afterward). However, Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) is California’s answer to any “it’s too late” rationale ever used to justify delaying a report of abuse. The state has recognized it can take survivors many years to come forward, and AB 218 encourages everyone affected by sexual abuse to do so now via a truly rare opportunity removing the statute of limitations.
California’s AB 218: Why Now Is The Critical Time To Consider Reporting Abuse
Under AB 218, from January 1, 2020, until December 31, 2022, Californians have a three-year lookback window to file a civil claim for sexual abuse. During that three-year limited lookback window period, the statute of limitations is removed. Anyone with a previously expired claim may now come forward and file a civil lawsuit, no matter how many years ago the abuse occurred. This law has been highly praised by victim advocacy groups like the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). DLG’s Founder, Samuel Dordulian, has said that AB 218 is like a “time machine,” providing an opportunity for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to obtain justice. For more information about AB 218, subscribe to DLG’s YouTube Channel.
Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.
What is Institutional Sexual Abuse?
Institutional sex crimes entail abuse, assault, or violence in an institutional setting with some level of involvement or supervision by a third party. Unlike intimate partner violence or parent/step-parent violence, the perpetrator may be an employee, agent, contractor, or even a volunteer of an institution. The abuse may occur in a school, camp, church, nursing home, foster home, rehab center, medical facility, or government agency. In many institutional abuse cases, the perpetrator and victim knew each other, and a level of familiarity or trust existed prior to the abuse occurring. The perpetrator may even “groom” the victim and their family members, working to make them feel special, developing a bond, and gaining the family’s trust to allow them to spend time alone with the victim.
Dordulian Law Group Is Here To Help Sexual Abuse Survivors
At Dordulian Law Group, we understand it takes tremendous courage to come forward after sexual abuse, whether the act happened yesterday or 30 years ago. Survivors may be uncertain about coming forward after an extended period of time because they may not remember all the details. At DLG, we understand the challenges of working on long-delayed cases, and we are proud to work with one of the best investigators in the nation, former LAPD sex crimes unit leader, Detective Moses Castillo. We also offer privacy, discretion, and confidentiality for all, as our entire process is designed with our clients’ experience in mind. We know it can be extremely difficult to discuss details of traumatic events, and talking to a lawyer can sometimes seem frightening. Our clients benefit from four tiers of advocacy and support, known among our clients as our Sexual Assault Justice Experts (SAJE) Team:
- Investigation Lead: Former Decorated L.A.P.D. Sex Crimes Unit Leader, Detective Moses Castillo
- Case Lead: Former Deputy District Attorney for LA County and sex crimes prosecutor, Samuel Dordulian
- Advocate Lead: Our Licensed Clinical Therapist with 15 Years of Experience Helping Sexual Assault Survivors
- Support Lead: Two Dedicated Victim Advocates Addressing All Needs of Survivors
We have recovered over $100 million for our clients and have helped more than 1,000 victims. Compensation for our clients provides a modicum of healing and a better future. However, our success is not just about recovering financial damages. We make strong statements to organizations, corporations, and agencies by holding them accountable. This leads to better policies, procedures, and experiences for future generations. See our case results and client testimonials to read about our clients’ experiences.
Never a Fee Unless We Win
We handle all cases on a contingency fee basis, which means we are only paid after a verdict or settlement is reached. There are never any upfront fees, and we are only paid if we recover money for you. A contingency fee arrangement allows survivors to hire an experienced and dedicated DLG attorney with no risk and no financial burden out of pocket.
Our expert team of attorneys can help sexual abuse victims secure financial damages. Contact our top-rated lawyers online or by phone for a free consultation today.
Get a Free Consultation Today
People who decide not to report abuse often do so for a combination of reasons, whether misperceptions about available options and legal recourse, doubt in the legal system, or fear of repercussions from perpetrators. When survivors eventually do come forward and report abuse, the DLG SAJE Team has historically witnessed that finding the courage to take that first step is a decision proving to be profoundly beneficial on a number of levels. Moreover, survivors often report that the reasons for delaying or waiting were, in hindsight, actually not nearly as significant as they once assumed.
What is most important is that survivors come forward when they are ready, on their own terms. As sexual assault attorneys, we are prepared to help you, whenever that day may eventually come. Once you call DLG, you will never again be alone throughout the legal process and beyond. When we take on a sexual abuse case for a survivor client, we view that individual as a member of our extended family, and our support and continued availability continues forever, even after you’ve won your case. We are here seven days a week to take your call and answer any questions about your California sexual abuse case. To speak with a Los Angeles sexual abuse lawyer at DLG about your situation, call us at 800-880-7777 or fill out our case evaluation form.