Thousands of sexual assault survivors have joined in tweeting their stories with the hashtag #ididnotreport over the past week. Many gave their reasons for not reporting — reasons echoing those above again and again, and more. Because I was a kid and I didn’t know how. Because the one time I did report it, it didn’t make a difference. Because I was afraid.
“#ididnotreport because I was made to feel like it wasn’t a big deal,” one survivor tweeted. “It was.”
The campaign started in the U.K., inspired by another supportive Twitter campaign: #WeBelieveYou. It has resonated far beyond that starting place, inspiring primarily women — but also a number of male and transgender survivors — to speak out about the attack they never reported, either tweeting from their own accounts or anonymously at @Ididnotreport1.
While many people have sent supportive tweets, vital to creating a safe and caring online space, the courage of these survivors deserves more than a kind word. 60% of sexual assault are never reported. So what are the rest of us going to do to make #ididnotreport obsolete? What are we going to do to change it to #isentmyrapist2jail?
Only 1 in 16 rapists spend any time behind bars for their crime. The majority of rape reports might as well be whistling into the wind, never leading to arrest and prosecution. There’s one reason women say #ididnotreport: it won’t make a difference.
Before anybody throws up their hands in defeat, consider this: In the U.S., under the FBI’s definition of rape up until two months ago, you weren’t a rape survivor if you were drugged or unconscious, if you were orally or anally assaulted, or if you weren’t a woman. In January, that narrow definition was updated for the first time in 80 years. A women’s rights organizer at Change.org at the time, I worked, along with Shelby Knox, on the campaign launched by Ms. Magazine telling the FBI: Rape Is Rape. I saw 140,000 people sign onto the petition, mounting the pressure on the FBI, and I saw it win.
I’ve also been inspired by student efforts to fix their schools’ sexual assault policy, both to improve campus reporting procedure and access to the criminal justice system. Campaigns that still need your help to succeed, such as those at Appalachian State University and at Michigan State University, where students were actually arrested for holding a peaceful teach-in.
Oh, and you know what else would help? Actually processing the backlog of rape kits. I’d think we would want to check if DNA evidence taken after an assault can get a criminal off the streets before they rape again — and before the statute of limitations runs out because the evidence has been befriending dust bunnies for a decade. Which bring up another problem: the statute of limitations itself, as Keli Goff discusses in her article, “Do You Live in a Rapist-Friendly State? (Yes, There Is Such a Thing.)”
Thank you to everyone who has participated in #ididnotreport. Let it be a reminder — or a wake-up call — that we need to amp up efforts to help survivors say #isentmyrapist2jail.