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Why Do Rape Victims Refuse To Go To The Police?

Updated on May 31, 2016

Tell the police when you're raped and your rapist will go to jail, right? Isn't it that easy?

Sure, there might be a court proceeding, but the world is a black-and-white place where criminals go to jail and the people they've hurt always receive justice.

Except it's not that way. Real life isn't a fairy tale. In real life, we have only a flawed justice system to work with and a lot of painful, raw emotions. People are violated and hurt, not just by rape, but many other things every day. The criminals don't always get punished. The crimes are not always reported. Nothing is simple.

There are many reasons why rape survivors are unable to report the crime to the police. Let me give you a few common reasons as to why.

#1 A Large Percentage Of Rape Victims Are Minors

44% of rape victims are minors.***

The younger someone is, the less likely they are to go to parents or the police when they're abused. Minors trust adults and depend on them to know what is right or wrong. So when an adult does something that seems terrifying to a minor, like rape them, the child or teenager is going to doubt their own feelings and assume they must have done something to make the adult act that way.

People who are ashamed of something aren't going to tell anyone and they especially aren't going to report it to the police. It often takes years of therapy to convince someone that what happened to them was not their fault. By that time, the statute of limitations might be up and any evidence they have of the rape will be gone.

#2 They Are Only Given A Short Time To Make A Decision

You've got seventy-two hours to go to the hospital and report a rape if you want to use a rape kit. Rape kits won't work on someone after more than that amount of time has passed. They also might not work if the victim has taken a shower or a bath. Some rapists, who are afraid of STD's or pregnancy, might use a condom, which will also get rid of any DNA evidence, although an examination might provide some evidence.

Most rape victims will probably still be in shock about what happened that entire seventy-two hours. Their first instinct will be to want to take a shower or bath.

It takes a ridiculous amount of strength for a rape victim not to clean off all the evidence that probably disgusts them on their body and tell an intimidating stranger like a doctor or a police officer about one of the most humiliating and horrifying moments of their life before they've even had time to process it.

And they have to be touched by these doctors in intimate places and possibly answer embarrassing questions, which might make them feel violated all over again.

It's perfectly understandable why someone wouldn't want to go through with this. We should applaud the ones who do, but not judge the ones who don't. It's too much too fast. They didn't ask for this to happen to them, it was forced onto them.

#3 Victims Are Usually Raped By Someone They Know

4 out of every 5 rapes are committed by someone the victims know.***

This makes everything a thousand times more confusing for a victim. It's easier to reconcile the idea of a creepy stranger stalking and raping someone, then it is to imagine a friendly neighbor who always brings you your mail doing the same thing. It might make the victim doubt themselves because they can't imagine someone so friendly doing what just happened to them. They might not want to report what happened because they're scared they led the person on or that they misinterpreted what happened.

To make matters worse, a lot of the people who rape are more powerful socially. Like Bill Cosby and the almost 60 women he drugged and raped over decades who have come forward.* When someone is more powerful than a victim socially, then there's an implied risk that comes with revealing the truth to other people. The rapist can ruin that person's life by making people hate them or making them lose their job or reputation.

This person has already shown how powerful they are by raping someone. The victim might not want to test that power further by seeing whose side people will be on if they reveal the truth.

There is strength in numbers, which is why Bill Cosby's victims were eventually able to come forward, together, but even so, he hasn't been imprisoned for what he has done and there are still people out there, famous people even like Whoopi Goldberg, who have taken his side against almost 60 people who say they were raped by him.

#4 It's Hard To Be Strong When Someone Just Made Them Feel Weak

Rape is a huge violation of someone's body. When someone is made to feel that weak, vulnerable, and helpless, it's hard to be strong immediately afterwards. But that's what someone has to do if they want to report the crime.

Most people who have been that hurt just want to hide from what happened. They want to feel like the world is safe again, so they shutter themselves away until they can handle it again.

If they do report what happened to the police, then they're going to have to relive what happened to them repeatedly as they tell several people and maybe even see the rapist again in court, when they otherwise may have been able to avoid the person for the rest of their lives.

#5 Rapes Are Difficult To Prove

It helps a lot when you have a rape kit, but otherwise, they are next to impossible to prove. When you don't have evidence, people assume you're a liar, even though lack of evidence doesn't prove that someone is a liar. It just proves that there is no evidence.

It's bad enough having to relive a traumatizing event that someone went through over and over again. To have every word of it scrutinized and questioned is even more pressure.

Because rapes are difficult to prove, even when someone has a very strong case against their rapist, they might not want to face them in court because they might not have much hope that the difficult efforts will lead to a conviction.

#6 Society Judges Rape Victims

Unfortunately, we live in a society that judges rape victims, even when there is DNA evidence. Many rape victims are called liars or accused of seducing the rapist. While most people who make accusations are not liars and it's absolutely never their fault that they were raped (no matter what they wore or did), people still accuse the majority of them of this anyway.

I remember a few years ago, during the kidnapping of Hannah Anderson, a teenage girl who was taken by an adult male friend after he murdered her entire family (and her pet.) Although we don't know whether or not she was raped (and it isn't any of our business), I saw comment after comment online about how she was probably behind the entire crime and had framed her kidnapper.

They were saying these things despite the fact that police had publicly proclaimed that there was zero chance she was complicit in any of this and despite the fact that he was the adult and she was the child. People jumped to these conclusions anyway and were very passionate about them.

Victims don't want to be a victim twice, so they might try to avoid society's judgment by keeping what happened to them a secret.

If You're A Rape Survivor...

I did not make this list to discourage from reporting your crime. Whether you report it or not, I think you are brave. What you suffered was terrible and you didn't deserve it.

I just want people to stop blaming rape victims for what happened to them and thinking they're totally irrational if they don't immediately report the rape to the police.


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