Expert: Many reasons why people don’t report sexual assault

“I came back from a party one night and had asked someone for a ride home, and when I invited them to stay, they took it as an invitation to take advantage of me.”

This is the voice of one of many women who fall to victim to sexual assault crimes at college campuses across the country.

In a study that was released Sept. 21 by the Association of American Universities, 27 institutions of higher education cooperated to collect data on sexual assault and sexual misconduct. It was found that 23 percent of women said they experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact that ranged from kissing, to touching, to rape.

The survivor of sexual assault, who Cronkite News isn’t identifying, explains that she did not report the crime immediately.

“I waited probably six months before I did anything. I was kind of scared to report it. I don’t know why I felt like I didn’t want to ruin somebody else’s life, and it took me realizing that he had ruined mine to actually be OK with going through with reporting it.”

Neil Malamuth, a psychology professor at UCLA, said there can be many reasons why someone may not report a crime of this sort. Victims can be concerned that there may not be enough evidence or that they will not be believed or may even try to pretend it didn’t happen, he said.

“If you had a robbery, you wouldn’t hesitate, but when it comes to sexual abuse there are many judgments, many myths, many attitudes that can make a person reluctant,” he said. “Also, there can be a desire to avoid in some way reliving the experience by having to talk about it, by being questioned about it. There’s often in sexual interactions, a lot of potential for miscommunication and people may have doubts about themselves, they may feel that they may have acted in certain ways that perhaps led the person on, even though they didn’t in fact do that and they may have communicated perfectly appropriately.”

The sex assault victim who spoke with Cronkite News has advice for others who find themselves in this situation.

“I’d probably tell other girls to report it as soon as possible as awful as it is,” she said. “It takes a second for it to click what happened; at least it did in my case. So as soon as you realize that or question it you should be going to the police or to a doctor or counselor, it needs to be reported, and you need to be taking care of yourself after that.