Local agencies weigh in on the #WhyIDidntReport movement

Local agencies weigh in on the #WhyIDidntReport movement

Thousands of sexual assault victims are taking to Twitter to share their stories — some doing so decades after they say they were attacked — using the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport.

The online rallying cry was ignited after President Trump defended Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexually assaulting two women when he was younger. The President tweeted Friday, saying one of Kavanaugh’s accusers should’ve come forward years ago.

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 (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018

In the days since, #WhyIDidntReport has been used thousands of times on Twitter by sexual assault survivors to explain what kept them from coming forward. Some said they were attacked by a significant other and didn’t realize it was abuse, while others Tweeted they thought no one would believe them.

One woman said she’s kept quiet about the assault she endured when she was 17 years old for 55 years. Actress Alyssa Milano Tweeted it took her 30 years to come forward about her attack.

Detective Marie Rosenthal with the Spokane Police Department’s Special Victims Unit told KXLY4 waiting to speak out about sexual assault is not an uncommon response.

“It could be years. It could be 10 years, it could be 15 years, it could be 3,” Rosenthal said. “They’re humiliated, they’re ashamed, they’re in denial that it even happened to them. They don’t want family members to find out.”

Erin Williams Hueter with Lutheran Community Services said she’s been working with sexual assault survivors for nearly 20 years. She told KXLY4 the #WhyIDidntReport Tweets she’s seen echo the comments she’s heard from victims over the years.

“It’s scary, and it’s traumatizing and they’ve already been through just the worst and most personally horrific kind of crime most of us can imagine,” Williams Hueter said. “When people do come forward, they’re often judged, they’re questioned, you know, they question every decision that they’ve made before and after the assault.”

Williams Hueter said she’s watched as the movement has picked up steam over the last week. She hopes the victims’ testimonies will help others understand why they’ve stayed quiet for so long.

“I hope that survivors feel less alone and that they feel empowered,” Williams Hueter said. “When there’s a social media phenomenon like #WhyIDidntReport, survivors understand that they’re less alone than they thought they were, and that’s gotta be great for healing.”

Also part of that healing: resources for victims. Lutheran Community Services and Spokane Police have teamed up to create an app called Seek then Speak, which allows victims to get help or report assault with the option of staying anonymous. The two groups also recently started a campaign called “Start By Believing,” which encourages people to believe sexual assault victims when they come forward.

You can reach Lutheran Community Services’ 24-hour crisis hotline at 509-624-7273.