Speaking out about sexual assault

Sophia Voight, Opinion Editor

Allegations of sexual assault are often met with scrutiny when victims come forward with their traumatic experiences.

Women who have been sexually assaulted often withhold reporting their attacks for fear of being blamed, ignored or the assailant receiving no repercussions.

When women do speak out about sexual assault, they are frequently subjected to more trauma and distress as people tend to scrutinize their experiences.

Susan Lor
Graphic by Susan Lor

This is especially true for victims who come forward with their stories of sexual assault months and years after it occurred.

Women who choose to speak out about their sexual assault long after it took place often are accused of lying and seeking attention.

Each allegation of sexual assault should be treated with the same level of fairness and empathy, regardless of the amount of time it took for the victim to speak about the incident.

Earlier this week, the catalyst to the #MeToo movement received a historic update, as Harvey Weinstein was convicted of two sex crimes.

Over 80 women came forward during the movement and accused him of sexually abusing them as far back as thirty years ago.

A frequent sense of confusion around cases like these where women report their sexual assault long after it took place is why they didn’t speak out when it happened and what motivated them to speak out years later.

Waiting to speak up about a sexual assault, whether it’s days, weeks or even years later should not diminish the validity of the accusation.

Whether in Hollywood or on a college campus, issues of sexual assault are very similar.

There are many reasons why people would choose to not report a sexual assault immediately after it occurred and why they would feel the need to speak out about it later in life.

Just because a woman may have chosen not to report an assault right after it happened, that shouldn’t invalidate the claim if she chooses to talk about it later.

Victims of sexual assault often get scrutinized for reporting their experiences. Women are subjected to victim-blaming in which they are made to feel at fault for what happened to them.

Women are often told that they were “asking for it” and questioned about what they were wearing or how much they were drinking as if those factors could indicate whether or not they had an assault coming for them.

Being subjected to questioning after an assault can be traumatic for victims. People often try to avoid situations where they are required to relive painful experiences, which may cause victims to not want to report their assault.

It can be traumatic for women to talk about sexual assault immediately after it took place.

Even when victims do report, police and authorities rarely pursue action and perpetrators get away with no charges.

This can keep women from reporting their assault, as they know that even if they did, nothing may be done.

Which is why victims often speak out about their assault after hearing other victims talk about their experiences.

It’s harder to ignore the voices of multiple people than it is to disregard the accusations of a single person.

Safety comes in numbers, and when more people know that they are not alone in a situation, they can feel more secure in talking about traumatic experiences.

While claims of sexual abuse and assault should be addressed in a fair manner and all sides should be heard, waiting to speak out should not be an overarching factor on whether to discredit a victim’s allegation.

Women should feel comfortable coming forward with allegations of rape and sexual assault no matter when they choose to do so.