Speaking Out about Rape is Important!
While it is ultimately a personal decision, reporting a rape or sexual assault is incredibly important. Sexual assaults are extremely under-reported, which leads to inaccurate statistics regarding known rapes and sexual assaults. Under-reporting makes the number of rapes and sexual assaults appear inaccurately low, failing to account for much of assaults and rapes which actually occur.
Many rapists are serial rapists and will rape over and over again. 91% of undetected rapists are repeat offenders. (Lisak and Miller, Violence and Victims, Vol 17., No. 1, 2010) Victims should thus report sexual assaults not only to seek justice for themselves, but also to prevent their assailant from making further attacks.
The act of rape can silence victims, and society often perpetuates victims’ shame and silence by turning a blind eye to the issue. There is a stigma associated with rape and the subject of sexual assault may make people uncomfortable. While it may be difficult, the only way to prevent violence is to overcome the stigma and break this code of silence. Survivors of sexual assault deserve to be taken seriously.
Why You Should Contact the Police Immediately
Victims of sexual assault or rape should to go to a hospital or rape treatment center as soon as possible and contact law enforcement. Unfortunately, many cases of sexual assault do not go to trial because of a lack of evidence, so it is essential that any possible DNA or forensic evidence that could be used in court be preserved. Rape treatment centers can arrange for an advocate to walk victims through the process. The sooner law enforcement is contacted, the more likely it is that the case will move forward.
If a victim did not contact the police or have an exam immediately following the incident, it is nonetheless crucial for them to report the assault. At the very least, a victim’s report could add to an existing case or create a history and record which could help to prosecute the assailant in the future.
Statutes of Limitations
While the statutes of limitations for prosecuting a sexual assault or rape case differ between states, in California suspects may be tried up to six years after the crime was committed. In cases of aggravated rape that carry a lifetime sentence, there is no statute of limitations, and in cases that carry fewer than eight years in prison, the statute of limitations is lowered to three years. (Cal.Penal Code § 799-801)
For many, confidentiality in reporting or talking about a rape is essential. If privacy will ensure that survivors come forward, that is a good first step.
As a society, however, we need to work toward shedding the silence and shame associated with rape. On a practical level, confidentiality allows allows a sexual assault or rape to be hidden or dismissed at various levels of the reporting process. The more survivors of rape speak out and the more the silence is broken, rape will be taken more seriously and become harder to ignore.
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