Cory William Berlekamp
When the MeToo movement started to build up steam in November of 2017, the world began to look at sexual harassment and assault very differently. Less than a year later, #whyididntreport is making the world understand why women do not report sexual assault. But the subject matter behind these two movements comes as no surprise to two University of Findlay professors.
#whyididntreport started after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward about being sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh 38 years ago. President Donald trump tweeted that if the attack had been that bad, Ford would have reported the attack when it happened. Women around the world came to her defense sharing their stories of why they did not report when they were assaulted.
According to Megan Gonyer, the field coordinator and instructor in the social work program at the University of Findlay, the MeToo movement might have helped pave the way for a narrower even more difficult subject for survivors of sexual assault to talk about.
“Now that there is this cultural, ‘Hey, people are sharing their stories and here is mine and why I didn’t say anything about it.’,” said Gonyer. “It might have opened the door a little bit more to people sharing something that they may not have been comfortable sharing before.”
Before teaching at Findlay, Gonyer worked as a mental health professional and a counselor. She had noticed something that most of the survivors of sexual assault she counseled said about what had happened after their experience.
“One of the things that I hear over and over from survivors is the sense of loneliness,” explained Gonyer. “So I think when things like the MeToo movement come to be, people start to see that they are not alone.”
It is difficult for survivors of this crime to come forward and according to Dr. Phillip Lucas, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Chair of the Department of Justice Sciences at the University of Findlay, there are many reasons why that is.
“In the studies that you look at and the reasons why when you listen to victims, a lot of that is lack of faith in the system,” explained Lucas. “Typically with female victims, we hear about half (of the crimes) with the other half being in that hidden or dark figure, ones that go unreported.”
Lucas was a Supervisory Special Agent for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation for 30 years and worked mostly with crimes against people. According to him other reasons why someone would not come forward are family issues, cultural reasons, religious reasons, and workplace hierarchy. Another reasons Lucas says is that sexual assault is a victim heavy crime and that a lot can be expected of a survivor to go to trial and get a conviction against the accused.
“They are the witness and the victim in most cases and that’s a big piece in most cases and that’s a lot of pressure,” said Lucas. “I can’t think of any other type of investigation where so much is required of the victim to move the case forward.”
Lucas explained that by having to relive that experience and face the person that they accused can be very hard but Gonyer offered a much more cultural reason why women can find it so difficult to come forward.
“Just the doubt and the culture around people not believing you when you tell them this happened or that there might not be any evidence or you waited a couple weeks and someone asks, ‘Why didn’t you report this sooner?’,” said Gonyer.
She says that this is about a culture that blames the victim of the crime in this scenario which is especially seen in the questions they fear might be asked of them.
“Like, ‘What did you do to egg them on?’, ‘What were you wearing?’, ‘Were you drinking?’, ‘Where were you?’, all of those sorts of questions,” said Gonyer. “Yes, we might lock the front door of our house but if we don’t, it doesn’t invite someone else in any more than if the door was locked. Why is it different with this sort of crime?”
Both Gonyer and Lucas agree that one of the main issues that a survivor has to deal with is time and that it is relevant to bringing the accused to justice.
“If you’re looking at solvability factors and holding someone accountable, in an investigation time is not your friend,” said Lucas who has been successful in prosecuting cases where the victim repressed the traumatic memory for 20 years but says that is difficult to do so. “With a variety of investigative techniques, you are able to get those cases but they are tough and I told victims that when I worked those cases.”
If anyone has dealt with sexual assault or harassment, they can contact Counseling Services on the University of Findlay’s campus at 419-434-4526 or Open Arms Domestic Violence & Rape Crisis Services at 419-422-4766. In an emergency either call 911 or run to one of the blue security stations located on campus.