Why Sexual Assault Survivors Don’t Call Out Their Perpetrator
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every 68 seconds, a sexual assault happens in the U.S., and 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. These statistics are alarming, and sadly, the numbers may be even higher since many victims are hesitant to report their sexual assault. Even in the age of the #MeToo movement, there is still much work to be done in preventing sexual assault, raising awareness, and helping survivors speak up.
Every sexual assault survivor’s story is different, and how each survivor deals with their experience are incredibly personal. Sadly, there are too many reasons why survivors keep their sexual assault a secret. The burden of holding such a traumatic event in silence can pose a lifetime of emotional turbulence as well as physical complications. Read on to learn why sexual assault survivors are hesitant to speak up and ways in which they can heal and move on by breaking their silence.
The Challenges Sexual Assault Survivors Face
Sexual assault survivors often have many challenges and concerns when it comes to speaking out against their perpetrators. Here are some common fears and reasons why survivors keep silent:
- Fear of retaliation or punishment from their perpetrator.
- Fear of victim-blaming.
- Fear that they won’t be believed.
- Fear they will have no support or a place to turn for help.
- Fear of being shunned.
- Being conditioned by the perpetrator to keep silent.
- Blaming themselves for the sexual assault.
Common Survivor Mental Health Disorders
Survivors are often diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you display any of the following symptoms, it’s critical to seek professional help as soon as possible:
- Thoughts of suicide/attempted suicide.
- Self-harm (cutting, scratching, pulling out hair).
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, unhappiness.
- Fixating on past failures/self-blame.
- Sleeping too much/not getting enough sleep.
- Having intrusive thoughts about the event.
- Easily startled.
- Constantly feeling worried or scared.
- Feeling anxious most of the time.
- Uncontrolled overthinking.
- Severe lack of energy.
The Emotional and Physical Effects of Keeping Silent
Keeping silent about sexual assault can compound the existing emotional and psychological issues from the assault alone. Survivors of sexual assault may experience the following difficulties both emotionally and physically as a result of the assault and through the aftermath:
- Having flashbacks of the event.
- Trouble with connecting with loved ones, romantic partners, and co-workers.
- Emotional outbursts and anger.
- Feeling moody, anxious, or sad.
- Feeling overwhelmed or irritable.
- Heightened sensitivity to certain noises or smells.
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating.
- Change in appetite.
- Not wanting to do the activities once enjoyed.
- Increased headaches, nausea, or chest pain.
It’s hard enough for sexual assault survivors to muster the courage to speak out on their own — and it can make it that much harder when in today’s society, there is still much victim-blaming going on. As a result, survivors of sexual assault often encounter the following statements and questions:
- Why didn’t you run away or fight back?
- Why didn’t you file a police report?
- Why are you just bringing this up now after all these years?
- Were you drinking alcohol when it happened?
- You led them on, and that’s why this happened.
- What did you expect to happen?
- You should have been more careful.
- Look at what you were wearing —you were asking for it.
While victim-blaming can be extremely difficult to endure, know that there are ways to find the support you need to get you through a difficult time. Here are some national support groups that you may find helpful.
- RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)
- NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center)
- NCVC (National Center for Victims of Crime)
- National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health
- Map Your Voice
The Power in Breaking The Silence
The aftermath of sexual assault means coping with emotions and feelings that you’ve never felt before. The physical, psychological, and emotional effects often last a lifetime. However, getting the support you need can help you be more confident and comfortable breaking your silence. It’s never easy, but when you are ready to speak out against your perpetrator, it can be an empowering first step in the healing process. Speaking up can have the following positive effects:
- Overcome shame, guilt, and fear.
- Begin the healing process.
- Feel relief that your perpetrator is being held accountable.
- Gain back your self-worth, confidence, and power.
- Help others to come forward about their sexual assault.
- Reestablish better personal relationships.
We Believe You. Sexual Assault Survivors Can Turn To Us For Help.
Sadly, in today’s society, many survivors of sexual assault are victim-blamed or not believed. Know that we believe you, and the sexual assault that you endured was not your fault. We understand that speaking out against your perpetrator is an emotionally draining and painful experience. When reliving the trauma, it can be difficult to bear. However, there is power in speaking up and holding your perpetrator accountable for their criminal and heinous actions.
When faced with the challenges of pursuing a sexual assault and abuse claim, we are here to help you seek justice so you can move forward with your life.
Contact us today at (833) 456-3529 to learn your rights.