Unreported sexual assault: who’s to blame?

Carly Besser Opinion Editor

     Sexual assault is a widely discussed topic at Murray State, especially with four reported assaults this semester alone.

One thing that caught my attention about the most recent report is that the victim did not want to press charges against the offender.

I don’t know the victim or the offender, but I was deeply upset about this. Why wouldn’t the victim want justice for what happened?

We wonder how we can help to prevent rape and sexual assault from happening. We host seminars on campus like “Be a Man” and “Take Back the Night” to no avail. It seems that sexual assault occurs whether we educate the student body about its detrimental effects or not.

One reason this could be is that by not pressing charges against perpetrators of sexual assault, victims are fostering a culture where there are no repercussions for the offender’s actions. Why would someone stop their behavior if there is no punishment?

This is more of a problem than I imagined. According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 60 percent of sexual assaults are not reported. Ninety-seven percent of rapists never spend a night in jail.

Originally, I questioned victims that never reported attacks, but why would they confide in a system that doesn’t follow through with punishing sexual assault offenders? According to RAINN, of 40 reports made to police, only 10 lead to an arrest. It’s difficult to convince victims that reporting and pressing charges is the best thing they can do when you look at the statistics.

Some assume that victims don’t report attacks because they’re attempting to protect an intimate partner, acquaintance or family member who attacked them. It is also a common assumption that victims feel weak, vulnerable and scared to the point of not reporting the crime. But could it also be because they know nothing will happen to the perpetrator?

We should reconsider who we are pointing fingers at in the case of unreported sexual assault. The women who do muster the courage to seek justice are left to wonder if their case is a priority to law enforcement. “To protect and serve” is a motto coined by police departments that many of us have heard more than once. We grow up being taught that if we feel like we are in danger, we should call the police and they will help us. Why should this be different for victims of sexual assault? Who is protecting and serving them?

We stress to students not to walk alone at night, not to accept drinks from people they don’t know and to respect themselves enough to know when to walk away when they feel uncomfortable. But is that enough? We need more reassurance and protection than this.

In order to reduce sexual assault, law enforcement should meet victims halfway. The fact that a victim is coming to police to report an attack is a sign of courage.

Police should make victims feel that coming to them was the right decision. By definition, sexual assault is a crime. Law enforcement must start treating it like one.

Column by Carly Besser, Opinion Editor