Sexual assault survivors are taking to Twitter to share the challenges in reporting abuse after US President Donald Trump questioned Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
“I was afraid”, “Nobody would believe me”, and “I was ashamed”, were among the reasons why thousands, using #WhyIDidntReport, said they did not go to authorities at the time of an assault.
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The hashtag trended on Thursday morning after Trump tweeted: “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr Ford was as bad as she says charges would have been immediately filed with local law enforcement by either her or loving parents.”
Trump’s tweet came about a week after reports surfaced that Kavanaugh was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in the 1980s. According to Ford, whose identity was unknown until Sunday, Kavanaugh groped her and tried to take off her clothes at a party when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations.
In a letter to the Senate Judiciary panel on Thursday, Ford’s lawyer said her client would be willing to testify later next week, if certain conditions are met. The committee had initially given Ford until Friday to say whether she would testify at a high-stakes hearing that was scheduled for next Monday. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said he had offered a private hearing and other options for Ford to testify. By Friday, it remained unclear if and how the Monday hearing would proceed.
Ford had written a letter to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein in July in which she described the assault.
Ford, who asked to remain confidential, also wrote it was “upsetting to discuss sexual assault and its repercussions”, but she “felt guilty and compelled as a citizen about the idea of not saying anything”.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 63 percent of sexual assaults in the US are not reported to the police. More than 90 percent of sexual assault survivors on US college campuses do not report the incident.
Some who shared their stories online said they did report an assault, “but it didn’t matter”.
“I still get blamed,” some Twitter users said.
Another said that women learn they’re second-class citizens early on.
Many explained that it’s hard to report abuse when the assault involves a relative or family friend. Some also said they feared repercussions or felt embarrassed.
Many also took to Twitter to express their support for both those sharing their stories, but also for those who chose not to.
“It breaks my heart to see these #WhyIDidntReport tweets, but my pride and love for every single one of these people is endless,” tweeted Delaney Tarr. “Every story here MUST be listened to. We must listen to women. We must #BelieveWomen.”
It breaks my heart to see these #WhyIDidntReport tweets, but my pride and love for every single one of these people is endless. Every story here MUST be listened to. We must listen to women. We must #BelieveWomen
— delaney (@delaneytarr) September 21, 2018
The Joyful Heart Foundation tweeted: “Reporting sexual assault – or sharing your story with anyone – is your decision and your decision alone. Every survivor, whether they speak out or not, is brave. We see you. We believe you. You matter.”
Reporting a sexual assault—or sharing your story with anyone—is your decision and your decision alone. Every survivor, whether they speak out or not, is brave. We see you. We believe you. You matter. #WhyIDidntReport
— Joyful Heart (@TheJHF) September 21, 2018
The official Women’s March account tweeted: “There are too many of these stories. Too many of us have these stories. Too many of us have never felt safe to share them. And men like @realDonaldTrump are why”
• There are too many of these stories.
• Too many of us have these stories.
• Too many of us have never felt safe to share them.
And men like @realDonaldTrump are why.
— Women's March – Text WOMENSWAVE to 44310 (@womensmarch) September 21, 2018