#WhyIDidntReport: Sexual Assault Survivors Respond to Trump

 A #WhyIDidntReport poster in New York City’s Union Square subway station ( source )

A #WhyIDidntReport poster in New York City’s Union Square subway station (source)

 

One year after the #MeToo movement, survivors of sexual assault have created a new hashtag explaining why they chose not to speak up about their experiences.

#WhyIDidntReport began trending on Twitter in response to a tweet made by President Donald Trump.

 
 President Trump’s tweet questioning why Dr. Ford didn’t come forward with her accusations sooner ( source )

President Trump’s tweet questioning why Dr. Ford didn’t come forward with her accusations sooner (source)

On Friday, September 21, President 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 Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time and place!” The tweet was in reference to a letter written by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in which she accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, of sexually assaulting her when the two were teenagers.

Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied Dr. Ford’s allegations.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to the police. Reasons victims choose not to report often include fears of retaliation and beliefs that police would not do anything to help or that their experiences were personal matters.

A number of individuals, including politicians and candidates for public office, took to the social media movement to tell their stories.

Janet Garrett, a Democratic House candidate in Ohio, said she reported her assault but saw it dismissed by police.

“I understand the shame and humiliation and why people don’t report,” said Garrett. “Women deserve to be treated with the dignity that is due to every human being.”

 
 
 Jackie Biskupski’s tweet describing being sexually assaulted in college ( source )

Jackie Biskupski’s tweet describing being sexually assaulted in college (source)

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski broke her silence of an assault she experienced in her senior year of college. “He told me I said yes, but I knew it wasn’t true,” Biskupski tweeted. “I didn’t think anyone would believe me over him,” she said. “I want people to understand how hard it is to come forward when you are a victim of sexual assault.”

Shireen Ghorbani, a candidate for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, also shared her experience after years of silence. “I saw #WhyIDidntReport trending and sat on it for a few hours and thought, is this really something I want out there?” Ghorbani said. “So many people feel they’ll be humiliated, that they won’t be believed.”

Democratic House candidate Katie Hill posted a video on Twitter to share her story and show her support for victims of sexual assault. “I have experienced sexual assault multiple times and in different ways -- I never reported and I know how hard it is for somebody to come forward,” said Hill. “I also know that many women are in the same place.”

#WhyIDidntReport was a top trending topic on Twitter by Friday afternoon and throughout the weekend.

Amy Oppenheimer, an attorney specializing in investigating claims of sexual misconduct, said the trending topic is another “#MeToo moment.”

The virality of #WhyIDidntReport sheds light on the complexities endured by sexual assault victims when it comes to reporting. As public figures and sexual assault survivors continue using the hashtag to speak out, Oppenheimer’s statement will remain true. Another “#MeToo moment” that could potentially influence the number of women that get elected this midterm season, considering that a number of female nominees understand the hardships following a sexual assault.

Not unlike #MeToo, #WhyIDidntReport continues to proliferate, aiming to inform alleged assaulters that their time is up in the process.