#WhyIDidntReport is the most recent hashtag to try and change the conversation surrounding sexual harassment.
US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanugh currently stands accused of sexual assault by four women, including Professor Christine Blasey Ford. He denies all of the allegations.
The hashtag began when the president said if what happened to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford were true, she would have reported it at the time.
Trump said: “If the attack on Dr Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed by either her or her parents.” In response, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted in part: “Hey @RealDonaldTrump … I never filed a police report and it took me 30 years to tell my parents.”
Even though both the #WhyIDidntReport and #MeToo hashtags encourage the conversation to keep going, we still have a long way to go.
Trump confirmed what many people think privately-that women would report rape if it actually happened. There is in fact a stigma that you should come out immediately.
One of the primary reasons women don’t come forward to report sexual harassment is shame. Expert Gershen Kaufman says: “Shame is a natural reaction to being violated or abused. In fact, abuse, by its very nature, is humiliating and dehumanising. This is especially true with sexual violations.”
Finding themselves overwhelmed with shame is a catalyst for the next reason why they don’t come forward: denial and minimisation.
Fear of the consequences is a huge obstacle women face. It might be fear of losing their job, losing their credibility or reputation, or even fear for their physical safety.
Instead of focusing so much energy on trying to figure out why victims don’t report, it would be far more productive to ask, “Why do we allow men to continue to sexually harass and assault women?” Perhaps even more importantly, we need to stop asking why victims wait to report and instead focus on how we can better support victims in their quest for justice and healing.
For every #WhyIDidn’t report story, there is a woman still keeping her story locked away. Let’s carry on the conversation. Let’s make sure women know they are not alone with their trauma and that we stand by them.
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