Social Justice Topic: Reporting Sexual Assault

The reporting of sexual assault in the United States is something that has hugely declined in the past few years and it is not due to a decrease of the crime itself. Sexual assault is broadly the most unreported crime in the United States (Fisher, Daigle, Cullen, & Turner, 2003; Marchetti 2014). It has been reported that out of 100 assaults only 32 are reported. Out of 32 cases 7 lead to arrest and only 2 are actually prosecution and face jail time (RAINN). It is assumed that the remaining 68% of those who have suffered a sexual assault have chosen not to report due to; lack of faith in the justice system; fears of retaliation; shame/self doubt that are derived form stereotypes and myths. Even for those that chose to initially report the assault, studies show that a lot do not wish to follow up with their report partly because of regrets and/or fear (Marchetti 2014). Some of this shame includes male victims who take responsibility for the assault because stereotypical beliefs that are usually reinforced by society’s values on gender specific roles (Vopni 2006).  These reinforced beliefs are also some of the reasons why some young women stay silent, fearing that they may be blamed or ridiculed for what has happen to them (Vopni 2006). There’s almost a certainty that many women are reluctant to report an assault if they believe that their assault isn’t a “real” or “classic” rape. In other words if it was not committed by someone unknown or leaves a physical injury behind a women is most likely to not convinced that she has truly been sexually assaulted and doubts she will be believed when reported (Vopni 2006; Marchetti 2012).
It is said that victims of sexual assault can in the future suffer from things such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Substance Abuse, self-Harm / self-Injury, Stockholm syndrome, Depression, Sexually Transmitted Infections, pregnancy, flashbacks, Borderline Personality Disorder, sleep disorders, eating disorders, Dissociative Identity Disorder and suicide (Marchetti 2012; RAINN). For those who do not repot their assaults, consequences may lead to them losing opportunities to access victim’s services (Marchetti 2012). Not only that the underreporting Sexual Assaults is financially crimpling to programs and initiatives making it even harder for victims of sexual assault to get appropriate care and attention(Marchetti 2012 ; Fisher et al., 2003). Unfortunately due to society’s myths and stereo types on sexual assault (which are reasoning for the police’s inability to properly serve as “gatekeepers” to the justice system) many assaults are either do not get reported or followed up when reported (Vopni 2006). According to an article by Vicki Vopni the police seemingly use the “real rape “ standards to evaluate sexual assault cases, which further traumatizes victims and add to the list of negative experience associated with reporting to the police (Murphy, Edwards, Bennett, Bibeau & Sichelstiel 2013; Vopni 2006).  An article by Dr. Sharon B. Murphy and colleagues says that studies showed that 32% percent of 125 sexual assault cases did not want to be pursued by the victims, the insinuation is that that practically a result of negative experiences. These negative experiences include victims feeling that the police officer taking their report was rude, insensitive, conceding (in some cases being told that there are higher priority cases to be handle) and feeling imitated by the polices line of questioning.
Although there have not been many studies to explain why those who have chosen to report a sexual assault have done so, but reporting is one of the most important steps when initiating the whole process in criminal justices (Vopni 2006). There is usually an initial assumption that when reporting to authorities, Police officers will believe the allegation, increase the victim’s personal sense of safety and deliver a sense of closure to the victims (Vicki Vopni 2006). When examining “what extent do police incident reports indicate that the victim wishes to drop the case? And what are the reasons documented in police incident reports for victims’ desire to drop the case?” Murphy’s report reveals that a lot of cases documented that victims did not want to press charges even though 11% of victims claimed they were encouraged by the police to drop the charges. Articles such as Murphy’s and Vopni highlight police reporting practices, making us aware that these practices are different among departments; specific language used in the reports, how the investigation is conducted and  the amount of detail officers chooses to include regarding victims’ decisions. There should be specific reporting practices in place for cases of sexual assaults, where police can be held accountable for their interactions with victims including accurate and detailed documentation of all stages of the process in particular the initial stage where cases are critical (Murphy, Edwards, Bennett, Bibeau & Sichelstiel 2013; Vopni 2006). Furthermore, there should be influences that promote arrest and successful outcomes when prosecuting cases of sexual assault. (Marchetti 2012)
Works Cited
Vopni, Vicki. “Young Women’s Experiences with Reporting Sexual Assault to Police.” Canadian Woman Studies 25.1 (2006): 107-14. ProQuest. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.

Marchetti, C. A. (2012). Regret and police reporting among individuals who have experienced sexual assault. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 18(1), 32-39.

Murphy, S. B., Edwards, K. M., Bennett, S., Bibeau, S. J., & Sichelstiel, J. (2014). Police reporting practices for sexual assault cases in which “The victim does not wish to pursue charges”. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29(1), 144-156.


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