Violence: recognition, management and prevention. Why women don't report sexual assault to the police: The influence of psychosocial variables and traumatic injury

The purpose of this study was to identify the variables that acutely influence reporting practices in female sexual assault victims presenting to an urban clinic or Emergency Department. We conducted a cross-sectional survey of consecutive female victims during an 18-month study period. Patient demographics, assault characteristics, and injury patterns were recorded in all eligible patients using a standardized classification system. At the completion of the forensic examination, victims were asked to complete a psychosocial questionnaire designed to determine specific reasons why women reported or did not report their sexual assault to police. During the study period, 424 women were eligible to participate in the study; 318 (75%) reported the sexual assault to police. One hundred six (25%) did not file a police report, but consented to a medical-legal examination. Women not reporting sexual assault were typically employed, had a history of recent alcohol or drug use, a known assailant, and prolonged time intervals between the assault and forensic evaluation (p 0.001). There were no differences in the extent of non-genital injuries or anogenital injuries between the two groups. Thirty-six percent (152/424) of the eligible population agreed to complete the questionnaire. Only three of the 20 psychosocial variables examined were found to be significantly different in women not reporting sexual assault compared to reporters. The reasons for not reporting were primarily environmental factors (prior relationship with assailant) rather than internal psychological barriers (shame, anxiety, fear).
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The Journal of Emergency Medicine
This study identified reasons why women may not report sexual assaults to police and the differences in demographics, assault characteristics, and injury patterns between those who do and do not report assaults. Data was gathered from 337 adult women who presented to a YWCA Nurse Examiner Program or emergency department. Results indicated that one out of four of the women did not report the rape to the police. No differences were reported in frequency or severity of injuries between reporters and non-reporters. Age, martial status, and ethnicity were not associated with reporting. Women who did not report were more likely to be employed, had a history of drug or alcohol use, knew the perpetrator, and had longer intervals of time between assault and forensic evaluation. The authors suggested that a strategy to increase reporting may be to increase the likelihood of arrest and prosecution of perpetrators.
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medical response, survivors, victim services
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