The Secrets Behind Unreported Sexual Assaults

Besides the embarrassment and shame, why do so many sexual assaults go unreported?

Less than half of sexual assaults are reported; at Howard University only three cases of sexual assault were reported in the 2004-2005 academic year according to their Office of Student Affairs.

Many studies show that women or men do not report sexual assault not only because of the shame and guilt they may feel, but evidence suggests that sexual assaults go unreported because no one ever believes the victim.

Nicole Bradford, whose real name was changed, is living proof of the theory. In Nicole’s experience there were three separate accounts when someone of authority told her that they did not believe her.

Last year when Nicole was a sophomore attending Howard, she was sexually assaulted by three male students at a party.

“I went to a party last year with two girlfriends and four male friends. I didn’t know the guys that long but they seemed like all right people. Before the party we were drinking Bacardi rum in one of the guy’s dorm room. Most of us were drunk before we even got to the party,” says Nicole.

“When I got to the party I was so drunk, my vision was blurry. I thought that was funny because I didn’t drink that much,” Nicole continues. “Then I started thinking that someone might have put something in my drink.”

At the party Nicole danced with the male friends she came to the party with, but the party host kept approaching her telling her to stop.

Nicole recalls, “I didn’t understand what she meant so I kept on dancing. At that point in the party my comprehension was so low I probably would have done anything.”

“When I woke up the next morning I felt strange and sick. I was remembering various people performing sexual acts on me, but I thought it was a dream,” says Nicole. “Later that night, a friend at the party told me that my dream was reality and many un-consenting sexual acts had indeed been performed on me. Some people even said they overheard my male friends talking about putting something in a girl’s drink.”

Nicole immediately called the police after she realized the seriousness of the situation, but it was too late. All the evidence of assault had been erased.

“Surprisingly, the worst part was my experience at HowardUniversityHospital where a detective told me that he didn’t believe anything I said because I was intoxicated the entire night. I never felt so low. 

The gynecologist performing the rape kit also said she didn’t believe me. “When I left the hospital, I wished I had never gone,’ says Nicole.

“But my journey wasn’t over yet. I then had to talk to the director of student affairs and possibly take the matter to court and expel the young men from the university but again nothing happened because I was slightly unsure of what happened,” says Nicole.

“However, a girlfriend testified on my behalf because she was a witness to the assault. In the end there ended up being no case because I could not testify what I did not witness.”

Nicole continued still going to school and says she was harassed by the males that she went to the party with because they were upset by the allegations.

Nicole has since gotten over the ordeal and is continuing her education at Howard. But she still has some problems to get over since her assault.

Sometimes, victims of sexual assault can develop a disorder called rape trauma syndrome, a type of post-traumatic stress disorder. Post-traumatic stress can occur months for years after the assaults, some of the psychological disorders are fear, anger, flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness.

“I have to admit, I am more hesitant, however not reluctant, of reporting inappropriate acts. It is much easier to not say anything at all because people are so eager to either put the blame on the victim or not believe the victim at all. But through it all I would say I’m dealing with this one day at a time,” says Nicole.