On Friday afternoon, the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport was the top national trend on Twitter, in response to President Trump’s tweets attacking Christine Blasey Ford.
The hashtag began after President Trump broke his five-day silence about Dr. Ford — who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party in 1982 — suggesting that if the assault actually happened, there should be police records from the incident:
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
Trump’s tweet erroneously assumes that all women who experience sexual assault immediately report the assault to law enforcement. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) posted an infographic using data from the National Sexual Assault Hotline showing that most sexual assaults actually go unreported — and those that do rarely result in any accountability for perpetrators.
BBC correspondent Megha Mohan tweeted the infographic, reminding readers that these statistics are just for sexual assaults in the U.S., as most countries don’t keep similar records.
According to National Sexual Assault hotline out of 1000 rapes, 310 are reported to police. 6 of those lead to jail time. These are the stats for the US. Most countries haven’t documented them. #WhyIDidntReport pic.twitter.com/ZxFMRavSGJ
— Megha Mohan (@meghamohan) September 21, 2018
Multiple women used the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport to relive their trauma for the whole world on social media in an effort to get others to understand why so many sexual assault survivors don’t tell anyone about what happened to them.
Kristina Smith-Puerto tweeted an experience that was similar to the experience Dr. Blasey Ford shared with The Washington Post. Like Ford, Smith-Puerto was in high school when she was pinned down and assaulted by a boy at a party where alcohol was involved. Smith-Puerto said the only reason she wasn’t raped was because her friend walked into the room.
My friends came in the room before he had a chance to rape me, so he stuck with just assaulting me. I’ll never forget what it felt like to be pinned down and helpless. I was 16. I didn’t want to get in trouble for drinking. #WhyIDidntReport
— Kristina Smith-Puerto (@klpuerto) September 21, 2018
Community organizer Jessica Raven tweeted that she repeatedly showered after she was assaulted, only to be told that she had washed away the evidence, preventing her assailant from being held accountable.
The first thing I wanted to do after being raped was take a shower. And shower again & again & again to get the feeling of being violated off of me. With support from friends, I did attempt to report it, and I was told that there was no proof because I showered. #WhyIDidntReport
— Jessica Raven (@thejessicaraven) September 21, 2018
Actress Ashley Judd tweeted that she was assaulted for the first time when she was just seven years old, but nobody believed her when she told an adult. Then, after she was raped as a teenager, adults simply shamed her. New York Times writer Kate Conger tweeted a screenshot of two emails — one that she sent after she was assaulted in 2011, and an email she finally received following up with her seven years after the fact. Twitter user @JaceLGalloway — who was a police dispatcher — didn’t even tell her cop friends about her assault.
#WhyIDidntReport. The first time it happened, I was 7. I told the first adults I came upon. They said “Oh, he’s a nice old man, that’s not what he meant.” So when I was raped at 15, I only told my diary. When an adult read it, she accused me of having sex with an adult man.
— ashley judd (@AshleyJudd) September 21, 2018
— kate conger (@kateconger) September 21, 2018
I was 17. He beat me to a pulp in broad daylight. Nobody helped. He later stalked me, broke into my home & slashed friend's tires. During some of that time, I worked as a police dispatcher.I didn't tell my cop friends!
When a woman comes forward, BELIEVE HER! #WhyIDidntReport
— Sister Resister (@JaceLGalloway) September 21, 2018
Other women who tweeted their experiences on the #WhyIDidntReport hashtag simply said they didn’t tell anyone because they were either too young and nobody would believe them, or because the assailant was a respected family member or member of the community, or because the assailant threatened their life. When they did report the assault, they often saw their attacker walk away scot-free.
I was 16. He was the 32 year old youth pastor at a friends church. I was trying to find purpose in life, what I found was that no one has good intentions. He had an entire community behind him, and a family with kids. I converted from that religion. #whyididntreport
— timebeets (@timebeets) September 21, 2018
1. I did report. The cops let him off w/a stern talking to, a pat on the back & a promise not to do it again. 🙄 Bc they "didn't want his wife upset with him" & "he's a NG Reservist, sooo…"
I was 16. We women learn our 2nd-class citizenship early & well.#WhyIDidntReport
— LdM BeachGirl (@LdM_BeachGirl) September 21, 2018
I was 17. At college. I accepted a ride from two guys. It never occured to me they wouldn't take me home. There was a knife. I was cut. I couldn't report: I knew it was my fault. The family doctor stitched me up, kept the secret. My parents never knew.#WhyIDidntReport
— Victoria Brownworth (@VABVOX) September 21, 2018
I was afraid to tell, I believed he would hurt me more than he already had, I was in preschool, he was a relative. #WhyIDidntReport
— Tracy DC (@TracyCloutier2) September 21, 2018
I was 6 and didn’t know why it continued to happen…he told me no adult would believe me and I would be labeled a liar…when it finally was found out we never spoke of it in my family I just had to stay a normal second grade student and pretend #WhyIDidntReport
— barbde65 (@barbde65) September 21, 2018
The sexual abuse occurred over ten years. Most of the time, I denied that what happened actually happened. Because when it's your mother, you find ways to rationalize the behavior, even when, by any objective viewpoint, it should clearly be abuse. (thread)#WhyIDidntReport
— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) September 21, 2018
#WhyIDidntReport He was a very handsome family friend, I took a motorcycle ride w/him. He drove to a cornfield and raped me. I was a virgin, 17 yrs old. Never told my parents. I don't remember the exact date, or cornfield like Trump expects me to, but it tears me up every day!!!
— Deb Vermaas (@debv219) September 21, 2018
#WhyIDidntReport I told my roommate what happened, showed her my bruises after she asked me why I was acting so weird. She made me sit with her while she called him to ask if he really raped me. He denied it. She refused to "take a side"
— Penny Jierce (@JennyThePierce) September 21, 2018
You can read more #WhyIDidntReport stories by clicking here.
Nick Jewell is a freelance political writer, and a proud resident of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.