Why are Victims of Sexual Violence Not Seeking Help?

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Someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds.[1] But even with such unfortunate frequency, too many perpetrators are not held accountable. For starters, nearly 70% of assault victims on college campuses do not report to the police.[2] Additionally, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) estimated that over 95% of all campus rapes in the United States go unreported.[3]

While sexual violence is a publicized topic in our legal, political, and overall news cycle in 2019, men and women are still reluctant to come forward to report their perpetrators. Even with the highly-publicized trials and accusations of TV star Bill Cosby, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and film producer Harvey Weinstein, the rate at which victims are coming forth to share their stories are minuscule compared to the frequency of such acts occurring. In this post, institutional sexual assault lawyer Andrew Shubin explains the common reasons behind victims not reporting their assault.

Why are Women Not Coming Forward as Sexual Assault Victims?

According to Beverly Engel, a highly publicized psychotherapist with over 35 years of experience, there are eight distinct reasons why woman victims do not come forward about sexual assault in the workplace or elsewhere: Shame, Denial, Fear of the Consequences, Low Self-Esteem, Hopelessness, History of being Sexually Assaulted, Lack of Information, and Disbelief.[4] Although we won’t dive into every reason now, it is important to point them all out to understand what other victims have, and currently may be going through.


Shame is a common reason why both men and women do not come forward to report sexual violence. With shame, many victims feel that for some reason, it is their fault the event occurred. Here, many victims try and hide from such an event rather than come forward to report their perpetrators because with shame, victims can continue to feel humiliated and powerless.

Fear of the Consequences

Because many victims of sexual violence are from perpetrators they know, [5] women fear they will be passed over for promotions, fired, or that others will make them out to be opportunist trying to advance their personal goals if they come forward with sexual violence claims.

Low Self-Esteem

Women can downplay what happened, sometimes allowing sexual advances because of the culture our society has produced. According to Ms. Engel, “beginning in early childhood, the average girl experiences unwanted sexual remarks and sexual behavior from boys and men.” This shows how sexual violations can begin at an early age, leaving a gloomy path if our society fails to punish such unacceptable remarks and behavior.

Why are Students Not Coming Forward as Victims of Sexual Assault?

  1. 27% of college women have experienced some form of unwanted sexual conduct.[6]
  2. More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.[7]
  3. Nearly two-thirds of college students experience sexual harassment.[8]
  4. A 2014 survey found that only 20% of female students (aged 18-24) reported to law enforcement.[9]

A study funded by the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) discussed numerous reasons why college students do not come forward to report sexual violence: the two main reasons dealing with fear and confusion.[10] Researchers of the study found that students are frequently afraid of their perpetrator and how they may retaliate or treat the victim. Researchers also found that students might be confused as to what legally counts as sexual violence, where to report an incident, and the evidence necessary in a claim. Ultimately, these concerns can all be alleviated by seeking help from proper channels such as university hotlines and experienced human rights attorneys.

Sexual Assault Victim Defense Lawyer Offering Free Consultations

Sexual assault victim defense attorney Andrew Shubin is dedicated to protecting the lives of victims everywhere. If you or a loved one was sexually assaulted and want to pursue legal options, do not go through this alone. Call our law offices today for a free and confidential legal consultation today.



  1. The Realities of Sexual Assault on Campus, Bestcolleges, https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/preventing-sexual-assault/
  2. 6 Reasons Why Student’s Don’t Report Sexual Assault, Everfi, (October 15, 2018), https://everfi.com/insights/blog/students-dont-report-sexual-assault/
  3. Id.
  4. Beverly Engel, Why Don’t Victims of Sexual Harassment Come Forward Sooner?, Psychology Today, (November 16, 2017), https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/201711/why-dont-victims-sexual-harassment-come-forward-sooner.
  5. The Realities of Sexual Assault on Campus, Bestcolleges, https://www.bestcolleges.com/resources/preventing-sexual-assault/
  6. Gross, A. M., Winslett, A., Roberts, M., & Gohm, C. L. (2006). An Examination of Sexual Violence Against College Women. Violence Against Women, 12, 288-300. doi: 10.1177/1077801205277358
  7. Cullen, F., Fisher, B., & Turner, M., The sexual victimization of college women (NCJ 182369). (2000). Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/182369.pdf
  8. Hill, C., & Silva, E. (2005). Drawing the line: Sexual harassment on campus. Retrieved from the American Association of University Women: http://www.aauw.org/files/2013/02/drawing-the-line-sexual-harassment-on-campus.pdf
  9. 6 Reasons Why Student’s Don’t Report Sexual Assault, Everfi, (October 15, 2018), https://everfi.com/insights/blog/students-dont-report-sexual-assault/
  10. Id.

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