Understanding Trauma & Violence


Why might survivors of gender-based violence may feel hesitant to report the human rights violation?


Thank you for your question. If you have not experienced any form of gender-based harm, it might be hard to imagine why survivors who go through these horrific experiences do not always report them.  Unfortunately, due to the characteristics of one's sexual harm experience, the lack of protection for survivors, and historical injustices within the criminal-legal system, gender-based violence is the most underreported crime. For example, it is estimated that 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police and only 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities. 

There are many reasons why survivors may feel hesitant to report their experience. We will list a few of these reasons below:

  1. It is not safe for them to report the assault at this time or they fear perpetrator or family retaliation.
  2. They want to put the incident behind them or forget it happened.
  3. They aren’t sure that what happened meets the legal definition of sexual assault or rape.
  4. They are in shock.
  5. They feel shame or self-blame.
  6. They fear not being believed or being socially isolated from friends or family
  7. They fear being blamed.
  8. They fear being revictimized by law enforcement or the court.
  9. They fear that they will not receive justice.
  10. They fear that their offender will not be held accountable.

Whatever the reason, and there are many more, remember that ultimately it is the survivor's choice whether or not they want to report their experience. For some, reporting is not necessary for their healing. Others just do not want to go through any additional trauma or heartache. Support and respect the choices the survivors in your life make related to reporting. This will make you a valuable ally as they navigate healing in the aftermath.


Rennison, C. A. (2002). Rape and sexual assault: Reporting to police and medical attention, 1992-2000 [NCJ 194530]. Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsarp00.pdf

 Hanson, R. F., Resnick, H. S., Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Best, C. (1999). Factors related to the reporting of childhood rape. Child Abuse and Neglect, 23,559–569. doi:10.1016/S0145-2134(99)00028-9

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