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The Voices Behind #WhyIdidntReport (sooner)

On the 21st of September 2018, the president of the USA, Donald Trump, publicly went after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

Dr. Ford is an American psychologist and professor, who spoke out about sexual assault regarding Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who was reported to be on the shortlist to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

In the tweet, president Donald Trump states:

“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!“
— Donald J. Trump, September 21, 2018.

President Trump himself has been accused of sexual misconduct, sexual assault, rape and infidelity himself, and decided to publicly support Brett Kavanaugh. The result?


#WhyIdidntReport


Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted at Trump sharing her own experience with sexual violence and not reporting it to anyone, and added the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport.

Thousands of people worldwide started using the hashtag #WhyIdidntReport and #MeToo as a result, to share their stories of rape and sexual assault, and why they didn’t report (sooner). I decided to interview a few of them, to amplify their voice.


The Result Of Speaking Out

Actress Sand Van Roy on the red carpet.

One of those victims I spoke with is Sand Van Roy, a Belgian-Dutch actress known for her roles in Taxi, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and the yet to be released film Anna.

Sand Van Roy came forward in 2018 about her gruesome experience with writer and film director Luc Besson, who is known for movies such as The Fifth Element and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.

After Van Roy bravely came forward publicly, other victims of director Luc Besson also spoke out to French magazine Mediapart, anonymously.

In an extensive report by French investigative magazine Mediapart, Besson is accused of assaulting a casting director and sexually harassing an employee of his film company, EuropaCorp, as well as another actress he first met in Los Angeles and later allegedly assaulted during a meeting in his Paris office. The women making the allegations spoke to Mediapart on condition of anonymity.
— Luc Besson Faces More Allegations of Sexual Assault, Harassment. Variety, 2018.

Sand faced media backlash for speaking out. She shared her experience with reporting sexual violence:

My entire life I’ve been conditioned to shut up and when I eventually did report, I lost everything. yet I still get called an attention seeking, golddigging, lying whore. #WhyIDidntReport sooner.
— Sand Van Roy, September 21, 2018.

Sand Van Roy. Image: Perla Maarek (cover build-upon work from original author)

What went through you when you saw the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport?

Sand: “It’s incredibly disappointing how victims still have to justify themselves as to why they haven’t reported. Reasons are obvious to victims. But thanks to #WhyIDidntReport they can and should become obvious to everybody. There’s a million reasons not to go through with it. Yet only two logic reasons why one would report. 1: To heal and 2: To protect other victims. Yet people rarely think this is the survivor’s motivation. No (they think), he/she’s after money, fame, revenge. Rape is the only crime that allows the public to turn the victim in to the monster.”

What advice would you give to victims of sexual assault?

Sand: “It can take years before you realise or dare to admit to yourself you have been or still are a victim. If you ever find yourself in this situation call a helpline. The people you’ll talk to are trained to answer your questions and you can stay anonymous.”

Do you hope that the #MeToo movement will become as active and embraced in Europe as it is currently in America? Why do you think #MeToo here has received with more backlash and negativity?

Sand: “I think people who criticise #MeToo are the ones with a hidden agenda. A lot of powerful men are afraid to lose their jobs, status and credibility. If you’re clean you shouldn’t be scared of #MeToo, you should embrace it. Europe has a lot of catching up to do.”

What (or who) helps you to stay positive and keep fighting?

Sand: “Support from family, friends and faith in the legal system is what keeps me positive. What keeps me going is the conviction that no one should have to endure sexual violence. All women and men coming forward today will hopefully create a brighter future for the next generation. There’s still a long road ahead.”

Has #MeToo changed you in any way?

Sand: “#MeToo hasn’t changed me. #MeToo has made me realise I shouldn’t have to live with abuse.”


Verity Nevitt, co-founder of the Gemini Project.

Does Justice exist?

Verity Nevitt is a female activist for victims of sexual assault. She started The Gemini Project with her sister, which aims to end sexual assault & harassment and campaigns for mandatory education on consent in all schools in the UK.

You came forward using the hashtag, and also mentioned having PTSD in one of your tweets as a result of sexual violence. Could you share how PTSD has changed your life?

Verity: It’s meant I avoid going to certain places to avoid triggers. My anxiety levels are a lot higher & I have more frequent panic attacks. The worst part is the flashbacks because they’re unpredictable but afterwards I’ll be affected for the rest of the day and be really depressed. I also get a lot of repetitive nightmares so my sleep has been affected. The flashbacks and nightmares made me relapse with self harm. So mental health wise it’s had a huge impact

Between 85-95% of rape victims who file a police report, never see the rapist end up in jail. What do you think needs to happen to make sure more victims get justice? And does justice exist, even if a conviction happens?

Verity: “There’s a lot of cases where people get let off by the judge because of the judges cultural attitude towards sexual assault. So changing how we view it in society would be a big help, with education etc. We have to start taking the allegations more seriously than at present - the justice system needs to be victim centred where victims are supported and protected if they decide to come forward as so many have heard horror stories and it can be very off-putting if they’re thinking about reporting. I think justice can exist, but I don’t believe true justice exists at the moment. Too many sentences do not match the crime and many don’t even include jail time. True justice would be them being held to account & taking responsibility for their actions - I often think that matching the sentence to the severity of the crime but also taking into account the victims suffering and how long it’s impacted their everyday life. Some justice exists with a conviction because it’s having the experience recognised by the court but I guess it depends on the level of sentencing they decide on.

Do you think predators in the public eye who have assaulted victims should lose their stage?

Verity: “100%. They have lost their right to any privilege by violating & damaging another so badly. They are not a role model and should not be celebrated. Their victim has probably lost so much as a result, it would be unjust for them to continue their career as if nothing had happened.”


#MenToo or #MeToo?

‘B’ is a childhood sexual abuse survivor and male activist within the movements addressing sexual assault. B is from America, and has shared his experiences about mental health and sexual violence online.

Has #MeToo/#WhyIdidntreport changed your life/perspective in any way?

B: “It’s helped me better accept that what happened to me was undoubtedly abuse. It's helped to minimize my self doubt. It's let me know that survivors won't judge me because the physical nature of my abuse wasn't nearly as bad, that I shouldn't feel ashamed that the psychological affects on me have been so big.

What are the pros and cons of being a man active within these movements? Are there any?

B: “I would say that it goes back to my first answer, it can at times be difficult to know that sex crimes are by and large perpetrated by men, while the victims are by and large women. There's certainly a feeling of guilt that my gender is more sexually violent, and that the patriarchal structure within society is designed to protect those abusive men and to smear/belittle their female victims. But I also know that, by and large, most women appreciate the support and voices of men who treat them as equals. To paraphrase something that @emrazz posted the other day, I wish there were more men standing beside women, not trying to stand in front of, united together against this culture that protects abusers and vilifies victims. I think the con with a being a man is not wanting to co-opt a movement originally conceived to help women of color who are rape victims, to find that platform for your voice that is proper and supportive. Like, I've been reluctant to use the #mentoo hashtag because I'm just not sure if it's better to use differentiating hashtags or if we should all use the same hashtags to amplify just how many different types of abuse there are.


no trust in the legal system

One of the things that struck me most about #WhyIdidntReport, were the voices - just like my own - who communicated not trusting the legal system anymore, after previously reporting sexual assault, and not being taken serious.

Victims should be able to trust their own government and society. That’s why we pay taxes: because we trust by doing so, we all will be protected more within our society.

It should never be the conclusion of any victim that the government and society can’t be trusted. Unfortunately, #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport is a reminder how many victims are left in the cold outside, by society.

The upside of the tweets talking about this however, is that they also show hope. Hope that things can change, and that many victims and their allies, are not ready to give up on our governments and society.

That, is a good thing, and should be seen for what it is: a potential to cause change, if enough people become vocal about these issues. We need change. Especially considering the statistics regarding rape convictions:

2016-2017:

823 REPORTED RAPES IN NORTHERN IRELAND (UK) IN 1 YEAR WITH JUST 15 PEOPLE CONVICTED. (1.82%).

1745 REPORTED RAPES IN THE WEST MIDLANDS (UK) IN 1 YEAR WITH JUST 174 PEOPLE CONVICTED. (9.97%)

1205 REPORTED RAPES IN AVON AND SOMERSET (UK) IN 1 YEAR WITH JUST 86 PEOPLE CONVICTED. (7.14%)

131 REPORTED RAPES IN LIMBURG (THE NETHERLANDS) IN 1 YEAR WITH JUST 3 PEOPLE CONVICTED. (2.29%)

It seems, thankfully, that the #MeToo wave is not going anywhere. It is here to stay and cleanse the dirt in our society. Right now, the road to justice feels like it’s not a road at all, but a mountain with no path.

Let’s change that and create the path to justice, together.


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