Rape truly is the most personal of all crimes. Many people do not talk about sexual matters at all, so they are even less likely to discuss rape. If someone was raised in an environment where they did not talk about sexual things, they will be less likely to report a rape as an adult. It is difficult enough for the victim to get through the actual experience, and victims do not want to have to relive it several times with many different people. Unfortunately, that is the only way to bring justice to the attacker. If the victim comes forward about the attack, they will have to talk to the police at least once, talk to the prosecutor, and talk to the judge or jury depending on the type of case. It would not be as difficult if the victim only had to discuss the issue once, but they continually have to discuss it with different people, all of whom are strangers to them.

Rape can occur between a stranger and a victim, but “many sexual assaults, however, occur between victims and offenders who know each other” (Meadows, 2010, p. 98). This leads the victim to fear retaliation if they do report the attack. Many rapists may even threaten the victim to prevent them from going to the police. Victims take these threats seriously because the attacker has already shown their violent nature, so they may be capable of much worse. In the case of date rape, the attacker may know where the victim lives and works, and this makes their threats more dangerous because they know how to find the victim. A survey of college women showed that “38% reported sexual victimization that met the legal definition of rape or attempted rape, yet only 1 in 25, or 4% reported the incident to the police” (Arrigo, 2006, p. 109). This is just a small illustration of how many rapes go unreported, and how many rapists are free to rape again.

Rape victims also have to fear the embarrassment that a rape case can bring. When someone does report a rape and it goes to court, the defense may try to prove it was consensual, or that the victim “wanted it.” Also, the police officers may ask questions that appear to blame the victim. Although there are laws protecting rape victims to a certain extent, there is still embarrassment that goes along with reporting a rape. Many date rape victims “are reluctant to report the act for fear that their own behavior will be scrutinized by others” (Meadows, 2010, p. 98). This may be because “many of the victims of date rape had been drinking or otherwise involved in some type of festivity when the rape occurred” (Meadows, 2010, p. 98). Because of their partying, victims may not want to come forward. This also brings embarrassment into their family. It the rape is reported to the police, the family will find out eventually, and the victim may not want them to know. They may want to protect their family, or are simply too embarrassed about the attack. They may not want their parents to know the terrible thing that was done to them. They also may feel partially responsible because they had too much to drink. Ultimately, they do not want to have to talk to complete strangers about what someone did to their own body.

Rape is also underreported because victims fear they will not be believed. Many rape cases end up being “he said, she said” because there is no physical evidence. If there are no bruises or cuts on the victim, it is difficult to prove rape. The emergency room doctor can do a rape kit shortly after the attack to see if there is any evidence. However, even if bodily fluids are found on the victim, that only proves that there was a sexual encounter, it does not prove whether or not it was a consensual act. Many rapists may use verbal threats to get the victim to comply, so there may be no physical marks or bruising. Some women fight back, but others do not because of fear. Rapists may have a weapon they threaten the victims with, so it may be smarter not to fight back in that case. However, this makes it difficult to prosecute. If victims know that there are no bruises or cuts on their body, and it will be difficult to win a case, they many not even report it.

Some victims may not report rapes because they do not trust the police. This is especially seen in certain cultures that exhibit a distrust of law enforcement. This may be for many reasons. They may have grown up in a low-income environment where many people participated in illegal activities. They also may have had negative personal experiences with police officers. Also, if they are in the country illegally, they are less likely to report a crime. They may also have a friend or family member who was arrested, and that makes them dislike the police as well.

It can also be difficult for victims to come forward regarding sexual assault due to the large percentage of male law enforcement officers. When someone reports a rape, they are asked extremely precise and intimate questions about what exactly the attacker did to them. They have to give details about the encounter that may be difficult to talk about, and it is even worse when the victim is female, and has to discuss it with a male. Although males can be victims of sexual assault, many victims are females, and they have to talk to male officers about their sexual assault. It is uncomfortable for many people to talk to a stranger about anything sexual, so to discuss a sexual assault is even worse. This is made even more challenging as officers can sometimes seem to be uncaring. The officer’s job is to collect the information about the crime. They are not responsible for consoling the victim, so they may come across as being abrupt or unsympathetic. This only causes the victim more pain as they have to discuss the assault and feel like they are not getting any sympathy.

These are only a few of the reasons why rape is underreported. Victims have their own reasons for not reporting rapes, including fear of embarrassment, fear of retaliation, and the fear that they will not be believed. They also may not want to discuss this due to the personal nature of the crime. Victims may just want to move on with their lives and act like the assault never happened

Bhagyashree Thorat