Immediately following President Donald Trump's tweet attacking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for not reporting her alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when it happened more than three decades ago, women and men alike expressed outrage and shared the facts about why rape and sexual abuse are some of the world's most under-reported crimes.
The hashtag #WhyIDidntReport took off almost instantly, with survivors documenting their experiences of having their allegations dismissed or ignored, facing systems in which they would have to prove the wrong-doing of their far more powerful assailants, and being shamed by their communities after confiding in others about their attacks.
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
#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
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
#WhyIDidntReport my sexual assault.
I was living in a time when someone who identified as a gay teenager would NOT be taken seriously by the police.
I believed that I would be mocked & ridiculed for being gay.
I also felt it was MY fault.
I didn't think they would believe me.
— Peter Morley (@morethanmySLE) September 21, 2018
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Trump's remarks came days after the Washington Post published a widely-shared article by columnist Elizabeth Bruenig, detailing the experience of one teenage girl who did immediately report her rape—only to have a grand jury decline to indict the two suspects despite DNA evidence, while her community blamed her for the assault.
Since the president is glibly tweeting about how Ford surely would have filed charges if her alleged attack was "as bad as she says," please read this gut-wrenching report by @ebruenig about what can happen when women actually do report their assaults https://t.co/18SmArq2Pc …
— Brianna Provenzano (@bri_provenzano) September 21, 2018
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo was one of the first public figures to condemn Trump's comments, placing blame for survivors' reluctance to report their assaults squarely at the feet of the criminal justice system—not survivors themselves.
"Sexual assault and domestic violence are [two] of the most under-reported crimes in society, this is a fact and in the past the law enforcement community has not done a good job of creating safe spaces for victims," wrote Acevedo on Twitter.
Others blamed a culture in which men like Trump proudly denigrate survivors for many women and men's reluctance to report their attacks.
2 out of 3 sexual assaults are never reported. Might have something to do with the fact that for every 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators walk free. And the fact that men in power make statements like this one. https://t.co/IHw3BfM2la
— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) September 21, 2018
Trump's tweet and its response came in the midst of negotiations between Ford and the Senate Judiciary Committee, which wants her to testify regarding her allegations as quickly as possible so that Republicans can push through their confirmation of Kavanaugh, who has the approval of only 31 percent of Americans.
This week, Ford's lawyers indicated that she would be open to testifying late next week, requesting that Kavanaugh testify first, that the judge would not be present during her testimony, and that the committee provide her with security.
The Judiciary Committee said Friday that it would meet some of Ford's stipulations—but insisted she testify first and that the hearing take place next Wednesday, a day earlier than she requested. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called the Republican-led committee's insistence on an earlier testimony "mean-spirited" and said it "candidly shows no sympathy or empathy whatsoever."
Meanwhile, the women's advocacy group UltraViolet tweeted its support for women and men choosing to share their stories and shared information about resources for survivors.