The #MeToo movement has sparked the need for greater conversation surrounding sexual assault and rape in today’s world. The movement has not only helped support sexual violence survivors with resources, but it has also brought collective empowerment amongst all survivors. But despite this radical progress, sexual violence is still highly rampant in the US, and many assaults go unreported. In fact, only four out of ten sexual assaults are reported to the police in the US, according to Merelli from Quartz. So why is it, that even in the age of the #MeToo movement, sexual violence is still a widespread problem? The answer lies in the distrust of sexual assault victims by the police and lack of law enforcement.
Although sexual violence can be one of the most traumatizing events in one’s life, sexual violence cases are rarely investigated by the police, and most are not taken seriously. According to USA Today, 70,000 rape kits (kits that contain DNA evidence to identify suspects) were found to be neglected by police agencies across the US; most of the kits were shelved by detectives and never even sent to forensic labs, according to The Atlantic. But this is just one effect of the distrust of sexual assault victims.
Over the years, police have consistently failed to catch rapists and other sexual offenders, because they simply don’t take the time to investigate them. Often times, the police will try to discourage victims from persisting the investigation or, even worse, just close the case without making an arrest. Police have argued that the heavy costs of analyzing each rape kit – about $1,000 per kit – have barred them from conducting sexual assault cases properly, according to Reilly from USA Today. However, financial barriers should not be accounted for when the lives of many are in danger; thousands of sexual predators still walk free, even when we have the technology to identify them.
The most likely reason why sexual violence is still so prevalent is because many sexual assaulters are yet to be arrested. A recent investigation, according to KPBS, has revealed that less than 10% of rape cases in San Diego have been solved since 2013. The reality is that sexual violence victims have constantly been ignored by the police.
Along with the lack of police aid, sexual assault is likely to go unreported by the victim. According to RAINN, the most likely reason for this are negative mental effects, fear of consequences, and shame. However, many of these factors have not been considered in recent sexual assault allegations made against politicians and celebrities. In late 2018, Christine Blasey Ford testified against Brett Kavanaugh, an associate justice of the Supreme Court, for sexual assault. Her testimony would forever change how sexual assault victims would come forward with their experiences. However, not all people believed her allegations.
In fact, according to Rewire News, a poll showed that just less than half of white women believed Blasey Ford’s claims. The other percentage believed Judge Kavanaugh’s denial or were undecided. Although Ford has made a large impact in the larger conversation surrounding sexual violence, there are still major improvements to make.
Sexual assault is still a rampant issue in America, and that is not likely to change until we enforce stricter laws and punishment for sexual assault crimes. This can only be achieved if we encourage sexual assault victims to come forward about their experiences, but more importantly, if we teach others about the significance of this issue.
Caroline Kim, Grade 12
Oakton High School