The #MeToo movement in 2017 created a tsunami of awareness, dialogue, and accountability regarding issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Thankfully, this movement drew attention to the overwhelming number of females (and males) who have personally experienced these issues and the resulting damage. On the heels of #MeToo, came Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford. Dr. Ford brought to light the inner struggle of victims about reporting these crimes. Her story is an illustration of the common practice of victims being blamed, attacked and threatened when they come forward with allegations—a practice only intensified when those allegations are made against individuals with power, prestige, or popularity. And finally, Judge Brett Kavanaugh brought to light the issue of proof of guilt and the defendant’s right to innocence until proven guilty.
All of these happenings got me thinking:
- What would make it easier for victims to report?
- What would make it easier for judges and lawyers to do their jobs in these cases, thereby lessening the need to resort to deciding cases on “he said, she said” justice?
- Would the intensity of victim-blaming be lessened by capturing more details, clarity and better “evidence”?
- How can we support more victims reporting sexual crimes, while simultaneously improving the way people hear those stories without judging them?
- How can we make the streets, schools, and homes safer for female (and male) victims by increasing reporting?
All of this thinking got me talking to a lawyer (my wonderful niece☺), and asking what gets in the way in these cases? After lengthy discussions, here’s what I learned:
- Too many victims don’t report sexual crimes or wait too long to report.
- The longer victims wait to report, the fuzzier the details. The sooner victims write down what happened—regardless of whether or not they intend to report—the clearer the details. And it is these details that strengthen a court case, if they choose to later report.
- When the victim keeps the incident secret, the lawyer’s job is difficult. Without witnesses, friends or family being aware of the incident, the chances increase of resorting to “he said, she said” bullshit “justice.”
- The more facts the better: time, date, address, circumstances, your clothing, who was present, what was said, who you told, etc. The fewer the facts, the harder the case is to prove.
So, I put on my thinking cap and came up with a Tool Kit for sexual assault and sexual harassment victims. This kit includes two forms: a victim form and a safety person or witness form. These forms should be easily accessible for victims of all ages. Male victims are also encouraged to use this form. The forms can be carried in a purse, backpack, sport’s bag, or back of a journal. They can be stored in a dresser drawer at home, in a car glove compartment or a desk drawer at work. The point is to have the form available to anyone and everyone who might need it if they are ever sexually harassed or assaulted, are a witness to this crime, or are told about being victimized by anyone.
Victims are often in shock, afraid, anxious, and unclear about what to do following an attack. One thing they can do is write down what happened. The sooner they write down the events, the better (particularly from a legal standpoint). These forms are a good place to start and a small step on the way to protecting and giving power back to the victims.
Feel free to download the Sexual Assault/Harassment Tool Kit, print it out and hand them to everyone you think can benefit. It’s important to note that while females are far more likely to be victims of sexual crimes, 1 out of every 10 rape victims are male Male college students are 5 times more likely to be victims of rape than or sexual assault than non-college males. (https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence). Hand these forms to your daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, friends, college students and others.
Reporting sexual assault/harassment is a key step in stopping it.
Statistics on Sexual Assault https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence
(If you would prefer not to share your personal information, but would like to download the tool kit, you can do so below):