Rape is real. So is the damaging silence that too often follows it.
Last week I was on four separate college campuses; a few short weeks into the new school year, three of them have already recorded their first sexual assaults. What I heard consistently: “Unfortunately, the girls don’t want to report.”
Reporting sexual assault is a choice facing every victim. The Department of Justice estimates that as many as 95% of sexual assaults on college campuses go unreported. Because of the societal stigmas surrounding this insidious crime, many victims are afraid to come forward: some are embarrassed, some feel somehow responsible, and some are simply in shock. Most college campuses have systems in place that allow victims some initial care and intervention without filing a police report. This is a critical option for victims: Whether you are ready to report on not, there is nothing more important than collecting evidence as quickly as possible. In many cases, it will be that crucial DNA evidence that puts perpetrators behind bars.
Many hospitals now employ Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE), forensic nurses specially trained to appropriately and effectively collect evidence, while responding to the emotional needs of trauma victims. Their job is to collect, preserve, guide and support. Their job is not to file a police report; the next step is always the victim’s choice.
Jane Doe No More founder Donna Palomba went to the hospital immediately following her sexual assault. The evidence collected that night was used to identify her perpetrator eleven years later. Her landmark case led to a new law in Connecticut, removing the statute of limitations on cases involving DNA evidence. Had she not gone to the hospital that night, her assailant might still be free.
Collecting evidence is imperative. At Jane Doe No More, we believe that filing the police report is just as important. Most perpetrators of sexual crimes are repeat offenders; fewer than 10% will spend a day in jail, leaving them free to offend again and again. Speaking out is the first step to getting them off the streets. It is also a victim’s first step toward healing. End the silence: no more shame, no more blame, no more fear.
To learn more, visit www.janedoenomore.org, or find us on facebook