Men are consistently getting away with sexually assaulting women. Here is proof.

I see examples of sexual violence against women every single day. I see it on the news, I hear it from friends, I experience it.

And consistently, the price attackers have to pay for their crime (if any) is insignificant compared to the terrible consequences victims of sexual assaults have to endure for years, decades, a lifetime.

You want proof?

First, let’s use the recent example of Brock Turner, the former Stanford University student who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman outside a fraternity party in January 2015 and was caught red-handed by two other Stanford male students. He was released from jail Friday, September 2nd, after serving three months of his six-month sentence.

Three months in jail while, The Atlantic reports, “Prosecutors asked for six years in prison, in line with the two-year minimum guideline for each of the three felony counts of which Turner was convicted in March by a unanimous jury: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.”

Turner’s light sentence drew public outrage at the time of the conviction and still does now that he’s been released early for “good conduct”.

His victim, however, has to deal with the psychological aftermath of her attack. In her statement to the judge in June 2016, she explained: “[…] what he did to me doesn’t expire, doesn’t just go away after a set number of years. It stays with me, it’s part of my identity, it has forever changed the way I carry myself, the way I live the rest of my life.”

If that’s not getting away with it, I don’t what it is.

Let’s take another example.

Rape kits are part of sexual assault forensic exams, i.e. very thorough and invasive gynecological examinations. These kits provide key evidence for arresting and convicting perpetrators of sexual assaults. They are also used to create a national database that can help prevent future assaults from occurring. Yet, in 2014, an estimated 400,000 untested rape kits were to be found in US police evidence warehouses. Police departments justify this backlog by explaining that testing every single rape kit takes money and personnel. Comprehensive testing of rape kits — in New York for example — have been proven very effective to find perpetrators of sexual assaults, therefore, it is difficult not to see in this this backlog an unwillingness to dedicate resources and prioritize sexual violence against women .

Are you still unconvinced?

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals. Indeed, out of 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free, while out of 1,000 robberies, 20 robbers will be incarcerated.

Sexual violence against women is not a an unavoidable fact of life, it is the consequences of values and attitudes that can be changed and it starts with taking sexual assaults seriously and properly convicting the criminals responsible. Women are worthy of justice.

The Myth of the False Rape Accusation

W hen a man is accused of sexual assault in America, people bring up unbiased juries and reasonable doubt and proof. Despite the fact that it’s statistically proven that our justice system and culture don’t support the reporting or criminal prosecution of rapists, the most common reaction to accusations is to ask for proof. We tell survivors that they must go to the police and relive their trauma — police report, or it didn’t happen! We insist on arrest records and guilty verdicts.

We are looking at women who have been traumatized and violated and telling them they deserve less benefit and belief than the people who assaulted them.

In our culture, the norm is believing rapists and sexual predators and not their victims. What we are doing when we ask for those things is oppressing and diminishing women. We are looking at women who have been traumatized and violated and telling them they deserve less benefit and belief than the people who assaulted them. It’s time for it to stop.

In the several years since our current president was elected, the social and political climate has experienced some frightening regressions. From rollbacks of environmental protections to racist and bigoted policies and practices, we are losing ground. Even the most wary of us cannot help absorbing some of what is going on around us.

What does our president believe about sexual assault? That women are out to get men.

“It’s a very scary situation where you’re guilty until proven innocent,” Trump said about sex assault claims against men, including against his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Trump says it’s ‘a very scary time for young men in America’ “You could be somebody that was perfect your entire life, and somebody could accuse you of something.”

We live in a culture where not only do we not believe survivors, we actively convince to admit they made false accusations. We put our faith in the rapists rather than the people they harm, a behavior that is just not supported by empirical evidence.

Why Don't Victims of Sexual Harassment Come Forward Sooner?



People seem to ask this question every time a high-profile sexual harassment or assault case is reported. Cases like the recent article from Washington Post detailing allegations against Roy Moore, Alabama’s Republican candidate for Senate, seems to have offered fresh opportunities to perpetuate victim blaming. It is amazing how many people shift the blame onto alleged victims, asking why they waited until now.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports receiving 12,000 allegations of sex-based harassment each year, with women accounting for about 83 percent of the complainants. That figure is believed to be just the tip of the iceberg. In a study issued last year, the co-chairwomen of a commission task force said that roughly three to four people experiencing such harassment never tell anyone in authority about it. Instead, they said women typically “avoid the harasser, deny or downplay the gravity of the situation, or attempt to ignore, forget, or endure the behavior.”

It is indeed very common for victims to delay disclosing their trauma, if they ever do. But since even highly educated people are continually baffled by why women don’t come forward, I offer some information based on the psychology of abuse and my forty-year experience working with victims of sexual abuse, sexual assault, and sexual harassment to help answer this question.

Let’s begin by making sure we are all on the same page. Sexual harassment and behaviors that fall under this category include: inappropriate touching, invasion of privacy, sexual jokes, lewd or obscene comments or gestures, exposing body parts, showing graphic images, unwelcome sexual emails, text messages, or phone calls, sexual bribery, coercion, and overt requests for sex, sexual favoritism, being offered a benefit for a sexual favor, being denied a promotion or pay raise because you didn’t cooperate. And of course, some women experience what more aptly could be described as sexual assault: being forced to perform oral sex on a man in a position of power, a man in power forcing himself on the woman either orally, vaginally, or anally, being drugged and rendered unconscious or incapable of defending oneself.

Below I have listed the most significant reasons why women do not come forward more often or delay in coming forward. While I recognize that men are also sexually harassed and assaulted, due to limited space, I am going to limit this article to a discussion about female victims of sexual harassment and assault. Male victims do, however, suffer from many of the same after-effects and have many of the same reasons for not coming forward.

One of the primary reasons women don’t come forward to report sexual harassment or assault is shame. Shame is at the core of the intense emotional wounding women and men experience when they are sexually violated. As expert on shame Gershen Kaufman aptly stated in his book Shame: The Power of Caring, “Shame is a natural reaction to being violated or abused. In fact, abuse, by its very nature, is humiliating and dehumanizing.” This is especially true with sexual violations. The victim feels invaded and defiled, while simultaneously experiencing the indignity of being helpless and at the mercy of another person.

This sense of shame often causes victims to blame themselves for the sexual misconduct of their perpetrator. Case in point, Lee Corfman, the woman who reported to a Washington Post reporter that she was molested by Roy Moore when she was 14, said, “I felt responsible. I thought I was bad.” Time after time, clients who experienced sexual harassment at work or at school have told me things like: “I assumed it was my fault. I’m a very friendly person, and I always smiled and said hello to my boss. I think he must have thought I was flirting with him.” Another client, a student who was sexually assaulted by one of her college professors told me, “I liked all the attention I was getting from him. We’d sit for hours in his office talking, and I was learning a lot from him. I guess I was sending him the wrong message.”

Understanding more about the emotion of shame can help explain why women blame themselves when they are violated, and why more women do not report sexual assault or harassment. Shame is a feeling deep within us of being exposed and unworthy. When we feel ashamed, we want to hide. We hang our heads, stoop our shoulders, and curve inward as if trying to make ourselves invisible. Most people who have been deeply shamed take on the underlying and pervasive belief that they are defective or unacceptable. They feel unworthy, unlovable, or “bad.” Shame can also cause us to feel isolated — set apart from the crowd. In fact, in primitive cultures, people were banished from the tribe when they broke society’s rules. Being shamed feels like being banished — unworthy to be around others.

Sexual harassment and assault can be a humiliating experience to recount privately, let alone publicly. Victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault in adulthood or sexual abuse in childhood tend to feel shame, because as human beings, we want to believe that we have control over what happens to us. When that personal power is challenged by a victimization of any kind, we feel humiliated. We believe we should have been able to defend ourselves. And because we weren’t able to do so, we feel helpless and powerless. This powerlessness causes humiliation — which leads to shame.

It is often easier to blame oneself than to admit that you were rendered helpless or victimized by another person. As humans, we want to believe that we are in control of our own lives. When something that occurs reminds us that, in fact, we are not always in control, it is very upsetting. So upsetting that we would prefer to blame ourselves for our victimization.

Women, in particular, feel shame, because they are often blamed for being sexually assaulted. Even today, women are accused of causing their own victimization with comments like, “What did she expect when she dresses like she does?” and “She shouldn’t have had so much to drink.”

And women are used to being shamed and feeling shame. Women feel shame when they are heckled by men on the street. They feel shame when men make fun of their body or make disparaging remarks about the size of their breasts or behinds. They feel shame when their entire being is reduced to how attractive or unattractive a man finds them.

This sense of shame has a cumulative effect. Depending on how much a woman has already been shamed by previous abuse or by bullying, she may choose to try to forget the entire incident, to put her head in the sand and try to pretend it never happened.

Denial, Minimization

This tendency to blame themselves and to be overwhelmed with shame leads into the next important reason why women don’t come forward: denial and minimization. Many women refuse to believe that the treatment they endured was actually abusive. They downplay how much they have been harmed by sexual harassment and even sexual assault. They convince themselves that “it wasn’t a big deal.” As one client told me, “I know a lot of women who were brutally raped, and I have friends who were sexually abused in childhood. Being sexually harassed by my boss was nothing compared to what these women went through. I told myself to just move on and forget the whole thing.”

Unfortunately, this same client had come to see me because she was suffering from depression. She couldn’t sleep at night, she had no appetite, she had lost her motivation, and she had isolated herself from friends and family. When we traced these symptoms back, we discovered that they all began after the sexual harassment incident. Depression is one of the major after-effects of sexual harassment or assault. Victims may experience self-doubt, which can lead to self-blame, and the hopelessness of the situation can also lead to depression.

Other women are good at making excuses for their abusers. I have often heard victims of sexual harassment say things like “I felt sorry for him,” or “I figured he wasn’t getting enough sex at home," or even “I knew he couldn’t help himself.”

And finally, women convince themselves that they are the only victim of a sexual harasser or abuser. It is often only after other women step forward to say that they were abused by a perpetrator that a victim may realize that they are dealing with a serial abuser or pedophile. For example, Beverly Young Nelson recently went on TV to tell her story of how Roy Moore sexually attacked her when she was 16 and said, “I thought I was Roy Moore’s only victim."

Fear of the Consequences

Fear of the repercussions is a huge obstacle women face when it comes to reporting sexual harassment or assault — fear of losing their job, fear they won’t find another job, fear they will be passed over for a promotion, fear of losing their credibility, fear of being branded a troublemaker, fear of being blackballed in their industry, fear of their physical safety. This is true whether it is a case of a young woman in her first job being harassed, an actress trying to make her way in the entertainment business, or a career woman desperately trying to break through the glass ceiling.

Many don’t disclose, because they fear they won’t be believed, and until very recently, that has primarily been the case. The fact that sexual misconduct is the most under-reported crime is due to a common belief that women make up these stories for attention or to get back at a man who rejected them. Victims' accounts are often scrutinized to the point of exhaustion. In high-profile cases, victims are often labeled opportunists, blamed for their own victimization, and punished for coming forward.

Another reason why victims don’t report or delay reporting is that they fear retaliation, and we have evidence from recent events to validate that fear. Sexual harassers frequently threaten the lives, jobs, and careers of their victims. And many victims are frightened by the perpetrator’s position of power and what he could do with it. Those who have reported sexual harassment or assault, especially by powerful men, have reported that they lost their jobs, and that their careers or reputations have been destroyed. In the case of Harvey Weinstein, the New Yorker reported that he enlisted private security agencies staffed with “highly experienced and trained in Israel’s elite military and government intelligence units” to collect information on women and journalists who tried to expose sexual harassment allegations against him. This fear of retaliation does not only apply to high-profile cases, people who wield their power to prey on other people are often quite adept at holding onto that power by any means necessary. Sexual harassment cuts across all industries — Hollywood, politics, media, tech, and service industries, like food services.

Some victims have such low self-esteem that they don’t consider what happened to them to be very serious. They don’t value or respect their own bodies or their own integrity, so if someone violates them, they downplay it. As one client who had been sexually violated by a boss when she was in her early twenties shared with me: “Guys were always coming on to me and trying to grab me back then. When my boss did it, I figured, ‘Why not let him do what he wants, no big deal.’” But my client had not anticipated what the short-term and long-term consequences of “giving herself away” might be. “When I look back, I can recognize that my boss violating me was a real turning point in my life. After that, I started acting out. I had never taken drugs before, but when someone offered me some cocaine, I thought, ‘Why not?’ When guys wanted to party, including having group sex, I figured, ‘What have I got to lose?’ I just stopped caring about myself.”

Sexual violations wound a woman’s self-esteem, self-concept, and sense of self. The more a girl or woman puts up with, the more her self-image becomes distorted. Little by little, acts of disrespect, objectification, and shaming whittle away at her self-esteem until she has little regard for herself and her feelings. There is a huge price to pay for “going along” with sexual exploitation. A woman doesn’t just give away her body, she gives away her integrity.

In the last several years there has been a focus on raising the self-esteem of girls and young women. We want our young women to feel proud and strong, to walk with their heads held high. We try to instill confidence in them and tell them they can do whatever they set their minds to do. We send them off to college with the feeling that they are safe, that they can protect themselves, and that we will protect them. But this is a lie. They are not safe, they don’t know how to protect themselves, and we don’t protect them.

By far the most damaging thing to affect the self-esteem of young girls and women is the way they are mistreated in our culture. Beginning in early childhood, the average girl experiences unwanted sexual remarks and sexual behavior from boys and men. Remarks about her body and her sexuality come from boys at school and from men on the streets. Young girls today continually complain that they are bullied in school — not in the way we think of boys bullying other boys — but by boys making remarks about their genitals, their behinds, and as they get older, about their breasts. In today’s schools, there is a common practice of boys running by girls and grabbing their behinds or breasts and running away.

Even the most confident girl cannot sustain her sense of confidence if she is sexually violated. She feels so much shame that it is difficult to hold her head up high. She finds it difficult to have the motivation to continue on her path, whether it be college or a career.

Feelings of Hopelessness and Helplessness

Research has shown us that victims who cannot see a way out of an abusive situation soon develop a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, and this in turn contributes to them giving up and not trying to escape or seek help. Specifically, learned helplessness is a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed and considered to be one of the underlying causes of depression. A concept originally developed by the research of psychologist Martin Seligman and Steven D. Meier, learned helplessness is a phenomenon that says when people feel like they have no control over what happens, they tend to simply give up and accept their fate.

Women feel it is useless to come forward, because they have seen the way others have been treated. They feel it is hopeless, because they won’t be believed, and their reputations will be tainted, if not ruined. Women who have already been sexually assaulted or harassed feel especially helpless, since the chances are extremely high that they did not receive the justice they so desperately needed. These fears can cause women to think there is nowhere to turn, to feel trapped and even hopeless.

Most women feel they are on their own when it comes to protecting themselves from sexual harassment. While they may take precautions to protect themselves, overall, they still feel helpless about changing the situation. Many women have learned the hard way that going to the HR in their company is useless, since HR departments are notorious for protecting the company at all costs.

As mentioned above, many women are overwhelmed with self-blame and debilitating shame due to sexual harassment. This self-blame and debilitating shame robs them of their power, their sense of efficacy and agency, and their belief that they can change their circumstances.

Some women don’t have the emotional strength to stand up to intense manipulation, to sexual pressure, or to threats of rejection. While they may take precautions against being sexually assaulted, from avoiding walking alone at night, to avoiding eye contact, to carrying pepper spray in their handbags, measures such as these don’t take away their overarching fear, brought on by witnessing and experiencing the consistent objectification of women, as well as evidence of the rape culture which currently permeates our country. In a recent study, researchers found that the treatment of women as sex objects has shown to contribute to women’s fear of sexual assault. According to Dr. Laurel Watson, a psychology professor specializing in trauma at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, “Our research supports previous findings that the rampant sexual objectification of women, what some consider an act of sexual terrorism, can heighten women’s fear of incurring physical and sexual harm.”

A History of Being Sexually Violated

Closely related to the above, women who have already been traumatized by child sexual abuse or by sexual assault as an adult are far less likely to speak out about sexual harassment at work or at school. Research shows that survivors of previous abuse and assault are at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted again. For example, research shows that 38 percent of college-aged women who have been sexually violated had first been victimized prior to college.

Those who experienced previous abuse will likely respond to overtures of sexual harassment much differently than women who have not been abused. As one client shared with me, “Time after time I just freeze when a guy makes a sexual advance, hoping it will stop him or he will walk away.” This “freezing reaction” is a common one for those who were sexually abused in childhood. And as was mentioned above, those who have previously been victimized are more likely to keep quiet about the abuse, since they may have already had the experience of not being believed and not receiving justice.

Lack of Information

Recent statistics show that 70 percent of women suffer sexual harassment on the job. In fact, the stats for sexual harassment are the same as those for sexual assault: one in every four women nationwide have been sexually harassed at work. And yet many women, even highly educated ones, are uneducated about exactly what constitutes sexual harassment, don’t recognize sexual harassment as a real threat, don’t understand how sexual harassment or assault affected them, nor do they understand the real world consequences of not reaching out for help or not reporting it. For example, the emotional effects of this type of harassment can have devastating psychiatric effects, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • PTSD — Studies have found a link between victims of sexual harassment and PTSD, which causes the victim to re-live the harassment and avoid situations where it could happen again.
  • Suicidal behavior — Studies suggest that sexual harassment can lead to suicidal behavior. Up to 15 of 1,000 females studied reported saying they made suicidal attempts after suffering from some sort of sexual harassment.

Disbelief, Dissociated, or Drugged

Finally, sometimes women don’t report sexual harassment or assault, because at the time of the abuse they were drugged, inebriated, or dissociated. As was the case with the Bill Cosby accusers — it is not uncommon for women and girls to have been drugged by their abusers and, because of this, to have only vague memories. Others may have been so drunk before the assault that they doubt their memories, and as we know, some are so traumatized that they dissociated during the attack and have only vague memories. It usually takes one woman coming forward before a woman is able to trust her own memories of the experience. Unless other women come forward to make a complaint about someone, most will continue doubting themselves and assuming they will be doubted if they report.

It is understandable that women have a difficult time coming forward for a number of reasons. These women deserve our recognition about how difficult it is and our compassion for what they have been through. Women need to be encouraged to begin to push away their internalized shame with anger and to learn how to give the shame back to their abusers.

Instead of focusing so much energy on trying to figure out why victims don’t report, it would be far more productive to ask, “Why do we allow men to continue to sexually harass and assault women?” Perhaps even more important, we need to stop asking why victims wait to report and instead focus on how we can better support victims in their quest for justice and healing.

If you have been sexually harassed or assaulted and need someone to talk to, please contact the following:

National Sex Assault Hotline: (800) 656-4673


. they fear retaliation - Agree

Re: "Another reason why victims don’t report or delay reporting is that they fear retaliation and we have recent events to validate that fear."

Exactly. Sociopathic sexual predator Bill Clinton had his minions destroy the reputations of the women he assaulted.

Roy Moore may have been a clumsy pervert 40 years ago, but Clinton was an outright rapist. Yet that doddering sleazy slob living large while camped out in his lair in NYC is still lauded by the suddenly "woked" Left that protected him by brutalizing his victims.

Re: "Another reason why

Re: "Another reason why victims don’t report or delay reporting is that they fear retaliation and we have recent events to validate that fear."

Exactly. Sociopathic sexual predator Bill Clinton had his minions destroy the reputations of the women he assaulted.

Roy Moore may have been a clumsy pervert 40 years ago, but Clinton was an outright rapist. Yet that doddering sleazy slob living large while camped out in his lair in NYC is still lauded by the suddenly "woked" Left that protected him by brutalizing his victims.

If you're trying to make the point that somehow one was "worse" than the other, and that it's a Republican-Democrat contrast somehow, you're failing rather badly and it's not even the point of this article. Weiner, Moore, Trump, Clinton, etc. etc. blah blah blah, the list goes on and on. Nobody here is stupid enough to think it's all one party or the other.

Fear of Retaliation!

THIS is why it's so hard for me to come forward at work. These men and women often have connections, friends, and they will make your life a living hell at and outside of work. They will harm you. I've been through very serious mobbing as a result of reporting sexual harassment. It has gotten very violent.

I'm at a different location now and now I'm facing another ordeal. I'm being blatantly sexually harassed by a young man because I reported him for being inappropriate with a young lady in front of me. I am a manager. This man lives in my town and knows so many people who I'm sure could care less about the truth. He benefits their life somehow, and I'm nothing. I'm also in a very vulnerable situation as I have no family or friends. I live with my mother, we have a 70 y/o cousin next door and his family, but we are not close. And right next door to me? The harassers friends. If he gets fired I feel there will be hell to pay. So I keep putting up with it, but it's gotten far enough that I've thought of some things I can say that will put him on the spot in front of everyone.


Some people really need to grow a spine, he harasses you? Kick/punch him in the balls, spike his coffee with laxatives. be creative

Dearie, I take it you've

Dearie, I take it you've never had a job. When I did report a man for inappropiate behavior on the job, immediately, to a female boss, SHE FIRED ME.

Another time a man was behaving very badly and I reported it, was told he was a really nice guy and would never hurt a woman. Then one day he disappeared and was never seen again. I know what happened. So does the woman he raped in the bathroom.

My first comment mentions my

My first comment mentions my work. I've had many jobs, my current for almost 10 years. I, too, reported sexual harassers at work, once to a female boss whom retaliated because she was forced to fire him. Another to male bosses who did nothing. Not sure why people are insulting me. I got word that my female boss's boss said that I had very "black and white thinking". She too, was female, and so badly wrong.

Apology, you weren't talking to me

I apologize. Thought you were talking to me. Wished I could delete it. Your story sounds typical to me. Wondering what happened to him.

Yes! I told the boss to keep

Yes! I told the boss to keep an eye on him because of his behavior towards the young woman also because of the way he was so touchy with me. He would step in front of me, blocking me many times I would try to walk through and dance in front of me. It was very annoying, and this was before I spoke to the boss about him.

After I spoke about him they moved him to another store, (my old store at that!), and he became the assistant manager. Yep. A store that was already known to have issues with violence and sexual harassment.

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Information on abuse aginst woman and children

Re: "Another reason why victims don’t report or delay reporting is that they fear retaliation and we have recent events to validate that fear."

Exactly. Sociopathic sexual predator Bill Clinton had his minions destroy the reputations of the women he assaulted.

Roy Moore may have been a clumsy pervert 40 years ago, but Clinton was an outright rapist. Yet that doddering sleazy slob living large while camped out in his lair in NYC is still lauded by the suddenly "woked" Left that protected him by brutalizing his victims.

vuyo:another thing that make victims scared of coming out is because its the negative feedback they get

Won't be believed

I was raped by a neighbor when I was 15. My status in my family was very low. Had I told anyone in my family they would first, not believe and second, be angry that they had to start a neighbor dispute that would adversely impact them. If I had said anything nothing good was going to come from it.

Little did I know that, 5 years later, when my sister was 16 she would be sexually molested at a job. She made the mistake of telling my mother who did not let her quit or report the abuser since my sister was working at an internship at a respected federal agency. My sister had to work another 6 weeks in fear for her safety and her life at this place.

Not all families will protect their girls and women. FWIW, I never felt shame nor did I ever blame myself for what happened. I knew exactly who the perpetrators were and the power they had in the community. I knew whatever the outcome was it wasn't going to be good for me so I said nothing.

Won't be believed

I'm sorry to hear about your situation. I understand why you didn't tell. Please understand, I am not judging those who can't come forward. I'm glad to hear that you didn't feel shame or blame yourself--you are one of the few.

Re: Your article.

Your title: Why Don't Victims of Sexual Harassment Come Forward Sooner?

The title here I find interesting. It states "Victims". Yet not once in this article do you discuss "Men" only "Women".

Men-on-men sexual assault is very rampant in our all branches of our military services.

According to DOD's Annual Report states that only about 38 men a day report sexual assault, which in and of itself is alarming. The actual figures put it at about 684 men are assaulted, 38 had the courage to report it, but the rest (like me a heterosexual) are and were too embarrassed to report it. Took me 22 years to build up enough courage to seek help let alone reporting this to the Army - which they dismissed because of "Statue of Limitations". This S.O.L. really means something else. Because even after 6 years of therapy and 3 years of still waiting for my VA Disability (which could take even more years of waiting), I still feel very alone in my recovery because no one likes to talk to a man about his sexual assault.

Men and sexual assault

I feel so sad to hear about how you suffered and how alone you feel. There are groups available for military men who have been sexually abused. Check out the internet or your local sexual assault organization. Thank you for sharing your story. All the best. Beverly

Much work needed in male sexual assault response

Michael I am horrified to hear what happened to you. I am sorry to hear the army was so unsupportive when you showed such courage to report this crime. I have a male friend who was sexually assaulted by a female in a hospital, he is too ashamed to report it even though he did nothing wrong. He spoke to his family and they minimised the experience. There is much work to be done in this area of responding compassionately and appropriately to the sexual violation of males.

So you're saying that male

So you're saying that male sexual violence harms men too? Really? No shit, Sherlock. It's MALE violence. Maybe you bros should stop beating on women and realize that the men who hurt us will hurt you, too. Maybe realize that making sexual violence into jokes and porn isn't good for anyone.

I feel your pain

I understand exactly how you feel. I was treated like crap by my mother and knew that I would never go to her and tell her what had happened. When I was older I told my sisters and they acted like it was no big deal or that they didn't really believe me. I tried to kill myself many times but I finally got past that. I have a lot of anger inside of me for years at this point I have PTSD and after 40 years I still see the images in my head. I hope that you and your sister get the help that I could never get

Awesome information

Great article!
Highly informative and validating.
Thanks for posting.

Great article

You are very welcome. Thanks for reading it.

Let it go

Sadly I was a victim too. Self pity engulfed me. I didnt tell it to my parents and the person I thought I can trust and have empathy laughed at me. Yet time really heals and my faith in God helped me I accepted the fact that everyone sins so instead of hating him I chose to forgive and left everything to God.

Well, bully for you. I'm

Well, bully for you. I'm sure the next victims of this man are willing to forgive you for making sure he was able to attack them. And get it right, he doesn't want or care that you 'forgive' him.

Very sobering and difficult

Very sobering and difficult to read. Some statements in this article may be slight exaggerations, there may also be some factors that go into rape and rape culture that the author is not considering (at least not explicitly), and I still believe that avoidance of drugs, alcohol, and dating men who have the expectation of casual sex may help a woman avoid sexual harassment and/or assault…but nothing is guaranteed. At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of everyone to learn how to respect boundaries and each other a lot more than we presently do, which may very likely mean giving up on some of the “freedoms” we have taken for granted over the last several decades.

I still believe that

I still believe that avoidance of drugs, alcohol, and dating men who have the expectation of casual sex may help a woman avoid sexual harassment and/or assault

And why do you think avoiding men who have no expectation of casual sex is going to give you any additional protection whatsoever. Perhaps it's the men who do NOT expect casual sex who feel they have to force it to get any sex. Most men I know who expect casual sex, and are routinely offered it by women, would just move on to the next woman, which is far easier and less risky than harassing or forcing anybody. Sex isn't that hard to find these days.

I think you're confusing enthusiasm for sex with lack of empathy for other people. There are many men who love casual sex that involves the woman joining in the fun.

Expecting casual sex is such a common thing among men that if you deliberately ask men and choose men who want to wait until marriage, I've heard stories that some men want to wait to hide the fact that they have ED or have little or no interest in sex in the first place. So you might be picking the wrong men with your potentially misguided strategy.

…but nothing is guaranteed. At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of everyone to learn how to respect boundaries and each other a lot more than we presently do, which may very likely mean giving up on some of the “freedoms” we have taken for granted over the last several decades.[/quote]

The men are the ones who

The men are the ones who should have their freedoms curtailed. I remember Golda Meir making the observation, when, after male leaders suggested that women have a curfew to slow the numbers of rape, that maybe the men should have to obey a curfew. Maybe it's time to make the PERPETRATOR give up life, liberty, and property, not the VICTIMS.

Very sobering and difficult

You made some very good points but I think we need to be careful to not "blame the victim" here. On the other hand, I do think women need to work on setting better boundaries and learn how to say No! and men need to learn to respect those boundaries. I have a new book coming out in April 2019 called: "I'm Saying No!" Standing Up to Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment and Sexual Pressure.
All the best, Beverly

Bless your heart, but the

Bless your heart, but the problem is not women NOT saying NO, it's the men who refuse to hear the word NO and refuse to stop. Way to blame the victims, honeybritches!

Lol becuase they havent made

lol becuase they havent made up the story yet.

You're full of it

lol becuase they havent made up the story yet.

Let's say you were a political staffer for a very popular political candidate who supported women's and gay's rights. And one day you were alone with the candidate in the campaign office and he suddenly put his hand down inside your pants. It was the last think you expected and you're totally shocked. Tell us exactly what you'd do in the minutes, hours, days, and months following that incident.

Would you call a press conference? Would you hire a potentially expensive lawyer? Would you go to his wife or kids? Would you go to the police? And how would you feel about people like you saying that you're probably just a liar BECAUSE NOBODY ELSE HAD EVER HAD A PROBLEM with this candidate? So obviously you're lying.

And if you went to the police and they said they'd need more evidence? And if the lawyer said it's risky because you'd be countersued for defamation?

You're full of it

I'm not sure what your point is. If you are giving another reason why women (and men) don't come forward, I appreciate your input. If you are sharing your own experience I'm sorry to hear that this happened to you and you felt you had no one to turn to. But if you are saying that women make up these stories, I disagree with you. While this may happen in rare instances, perhaps because the person is deliberately trying to harm someone, it is indeed the exception to the rule.

Sexual assault

I was held against a wall by both a teacher at age 14 and a police officer at age 16. I was very innocent and had no experience sexually, but I knew it was wrong. I pushed the teacher away and ran and the cop, well, I punched him in the face HARD and kneed him in the groin HARD and went into a complete crazy tirade at him. I told my mom about the cop and she begged me not to tell my dad or my uncle who was a police detective because we were both afraid that they would kill him. I saw these people quite frequently over the next few years and stared right at them. They wouldn't even make eye contact. I was taught by my mom and dad and uncle how to respect myself and defend myself. Never gave it another thought until recently because of the news. It certainly didn't scar me in any way shape or form. If you wait 40 years to come forward and start crying at a press conference 40 years later I think you have bigger problems in your sad little life. Grow up ladies. I am not talking about rape victims or attacks. Don't compromise yourself for a better job or raise or promotion. Take a stand and fight back.

You were lucky to have

You were lucky to have someone who believed you. In the case of one of Moore's women, who he attempted to force her head down in the car behind the restaurant, Moore told her that he was the DA and that she was just a kid and that nobody would believe her.

And for many women, it's not getting a job promotion that's the problem. It's getting fired, losing your income, being told you are a liar, and in the case of this same woman accusing Moore, getting death threats, a picture of a coffin in the mail, living behind three sets of locked doors.

In the case of Weinstein, the few women WHO DID SPEAK OUT were blacklisted from organizations key to their careers. In some cases they are threatened with lawsuits, like Trump said he'd "sue all of the women because they're alll liars". Getting sued by Trump and all his lawyers is not something a lot of women look forward to, and that threat alone was probably calculated by Trump to keep even more women from coming forward. And I'm sure there are a good number more of women who have not come forward about Trump. Because, who wants to get "sued as a liar", especially because you don't have "proof" of him having groped you, because exactly what would that "proof" be?

You were smart

Good for you for screaming and fighting back. Also for telling your mom right away. Why more victims do not do so is one thing I don't understand about this issue. That is always my question .

Good for you for screaming

Good for you for screaming and fighting back. Also for telling your mom right away. Why more victims do not do so is one thing I don't understand about this issue. That is always my question .

Exactly what do you think a lot of the victims did? Many of Weinstein's accusers, for example, explained how they ran out of the room, etc.

And just look at what happened to the women who dared to come forward against Trump. As you must surely know, Trump swore that he'd "sue them all", yes, every single one of them. If you're just a regular person with mortgage and having trouble paying your bills, just how thrilling do you think it feels to have the president-elect or candidate Trump publicly swear that he's going to sue YOU, with his million-dollar team of top lawyers.

And didn't you read the comment right above yours? Moore threatened the girl he just molested in the car and told her that if she said anything to anybody about what happened, he'd do bad stuff to her, and she certainly believed he could because he was "the DA" for the whole county, or whatever.

And take the Alabama news executive who was in the news recently because a woman came forward to say he gave her regular spankings in the news room after hours. He didn't deny it. But she said she didn't want to come forward because if she did, there was no way her father wouldn't find out, and she knew "for sure" that he'd come and shoot the newspaper exec, and she didn't want her father ending up in jail, nor get anybody killed, and not end up on the front of the newspaper herself.

If you can't grasp these things, then please explain to us exactly what these women should have done instead in the examples I just described.

You were smart

There is a tremendous amount of shame associated with any kind of sexual attack and this is the main reason why more people don't report. Not fighting back is also a natural human response. It isn't just "fight or flight" it is also "freeze" a common reaction to being threatened. Beverly

It's different for every one.

A lot of victims HAVE fought back, resisted, doing what they're "supposed" to do, but it doesn't necessarily get the results YOU got. The cop and teacher probably weren't family members nor were they people you loved or trusted the way you would others. A lot of abuse victims are groomed/manipulated and even the ones who do fight back are eventually worn down by the consequences of resisting.

You had supportive family who believed you and taught you right. Many aren't so lucky. Many are blamed, not believed, considered "crazy", laughed at, or "troubled". In some cases THEY are considered the abusers and the ones who get in trouble.

NO ONE is saying to not fight back. I have, my ex-stepmother has, people who "took 40 years to say something" have, but in a lot of these cases, the real "loser" is the victim.

Oh, and saying things like "sad little life" about people who have abused does not help--AT ALL.

First Off.

The POlice wouldn't have notified the people they were coming to get, they would deploy tactical units to extract the assaulter, he wouldn't have time to go bomb or shoot up a place.

You've got balls Paula

And I'm guessing your family connections didn't hurt. I would not advise any woman who didn't want to get her ass kicked to try to get away with what you did with ANY man, let alone a cop, who could have easily and in fact legally arrested you for assaulting a police officer. From the description of being pushed up against a wall nothing sexual can be inferred, altho I'm sure a more detailed account would explain. But I am not interested in that account, please no need to reply. You are, to say the least, fortunate.

Sexual assault

I'm glad to hear that you were raised to be so assertive. Unfortunately, many women (and men) were never taught this valuable lesson. The fact that you fought these people off is probably the reason why you don't feel negatively affected by the attacks. But many, many people would have never had the strength or courage to do so and they deserve our understanding and compassion.

Sexual Assault

Paula, you had support, others did not and many don’t. What you also learned was to suppress your emotions, and that is obvious by your total lack of care and compassion.

Another Reason

Another reason is because it actually never took place. My Friend has been accused by a woman who told her father 15 years ago she was raped. Her father was also her manager. What does a good father/Manager do when when he hears this? He does nothing. Except, allow her to make 2 more songs with her alleged rapist and make a movie. Now over 15 years she follows him on social media and praises him numerous times there, and gives condolences when his relatives die. Im sorry but its things like this that give real rape victims bad names. I think its also plausable women dont come forward until they have a motive. Like a failing carreer and want the lime light before its too late. Just saying its possible and should be included in an article like this. It is very well done.

Not so fast: A tutorial in basic statistics

Another reason is because it actually never took place.

Indeed, that is a reasonable possibility when there is ONLY ONE ACCUSER, as in the example you give. But when there are 19 accusers (Trump) or 90 accusers (Weinstein) or 300 accusers (Tobak), the chances that none of those accusations are real is essentially absolutely ZERO. Your reasoning does NOT apply in the cases of these public figures with a dozen accusers and sometimes many dozens.

It's just that simple. It's a basic statistical principle. You can roll one six, but you don't roll a dozen sixes in a row, much less 19, 90, or 300. Trump and Weinstein are accusing all of their accusers, without exception, of being liars. And the chances of that being true are essentially ABSOLUTELY ZERO.

The only exception that could be made for the statistical principle is that there is some sort of collusion and coordination among all the women. But the accusers in these public cases have had their backgrounds thoroughly researched, and many of them have corroborating evidence and friends who were told at the time. Your example has none of those aspects.

Except, allow her to make 2 more songs with her alleged rapist and make a movie. Now over 15 years she follows him on social media and praises him numerous times there, and gives condolences when his relatives die.

You seem a but uneducated about sexual harassment. It is not uncommon for women to continue associating, as was the case even with Anita Hill. Selma Hayak, for example, continued making the movie with Weinstein, etc. etc. The explanations for that are given in the article, which apparently you didn't read if you give that as a reason for it not being true. Also, some women blame themselves for what happened.

I think its also plausable women dont come forward until they have a motive. Like a failing carreer and want the lime light before its too late. Just saying its possible and should be included in an article like this. It is very well done.

Possible in INDIVIDUAL cases, but not ALL of a dozen cases coming forward for one man. The vast majority of the cases being discussedin the news all have dozen or so accusers, so you reasoning doens't apply at all with any realistic possibility.

There are public cases, such as the UVA case and the lacrosse case, but, as you can easily note, in those cases there was only ONE accuser. Those cases would have been very different had there been dozens of independent women making accusations.

Again, it is possible that one, or a few of Weinstein's accusers are not truthful. But if the issue is determining Weinstein's "guilt", it doesn't matter, because to be "innocent", all 90 accusers would all have to be lying. And the chances of that are essentially ABSOLUTELY ZERO.

Another reason

I agree with you, when there are dozens of people coming forward its obvious. I was clearly talking about an individual. So most of your ramble I agree with. I was saying another reason they dont come forward is because it didn't happen until they have a need to fit their agenda. as is likey the case with my friend. Thats all. Next time dont read past the fact I wrote about 1 person or the fact that what I am saying has merit. IT IS POSSIBLE. correct?

Dear Anonymous,

Dear Anonymous,

I agree with you, when there are dozens of people coming forward its obvious. I was clearly talking about an individual. So most of your ramble I agree with.

It is not a ramble in the sense that it is exactly correct and NEEDS to be stated because it is so often misunderstood. And by not mentioning this important principle yourself, you left yourself open to that possible implication by posting here when the news topic these days is mainly about public figures with dozens of accusers.

I was saying another reason they dont come forward is because it didn't happen until they have a need to fit their agenda. as is likey the case with my friend. Thats all. Next time dont read past the fact I wrote about 1 person or the fact that what I am saying has merit.

Likewise, don't read past what I wrote either, which was that I allowed for the fact that your case is different, and I explicitly stated so.

Obviously, I explicitly said so, and provided the statistical theory for it. I even gave two examples of two public cases where the accusations were false when there were single accusers. So, yeah, obviously.

Uneducated voters

Just to hammer home the point, it's very important to point out the statistical principle that makes it so different when there are 12, 19, 90, or 300 accusers because many of the men accused by a large number of women (including Moore with about 9 women accusers) have made the same argument that you did, which is plausible, but would be plausible ONLY in the case of a single accuser. But they then try to imply that just because perhaps one accuser was dishonest, then by, mathematical induction, they're all doing it for the same reason. Unfortunately, many typical voters-in-the-street buy that argument, and Moore and Trump are banking on it. You could say that's why Trump, as he said himself, loves "uneducated" voters. LOL

We are talking about real

We are talking about real world situations, dearie. There isn't a rapist or harasser in the world that has only a single victim. Not only do most victims fear to come forward, those who are get ignored. Nothing is done to the perp. Charges are dropped, plea bargains accepted that exonerate the accused (as in the case of Richard Allen Davies and others) Here in SF it's SOP to downgrade rape to simple assault and the perp gets probation. The victim is told she doesn't have to testify, you see, and is not informed that the perp is back on the streets. The only way to stop a rapist is with the Old Yeller cure, and that should be done after the first victim. We know from cold case hits that these men have dozens, even hundreds of victims, and had been reported but nothing is done.

Ryan, dearie, that fedora

Ryan, dearie, that fedora must have cut off the blood supply to your brain. Weinstein had accusers followed and threatened by some very scary people. He blacklisted women who didn't go along to get along. Women who did report were not listened to. Now go back to surfing for kiddy porn.

More reasons

I know of several women molested as children who never came forward for different reasons. One is that they just want to forget it. Prosecuting the perpetrator makes them relive it and it's just not worth it to them. It takes so long, with so many interviews, court appearances, etc and the victim is the one who suffers over and over again. In addition their community narrows. People they thought were friends don't know how to behave around them so they distance themselves. They may not actually be "blamed" but they sure feel like it. Nobody wants to be the first to accuse an abuser but there has to be one brave soul.

Me too

I wonder how many people are tired of the Harvey Weinstein stories in the press? I wonder how many victims of abuse are not tired, who are silently hoping that the tide will rise and the voices of victims will finally be heard, not just in the US but worldwide? Are we being listened to and really being heard though? I think not. You only need to listen to the many victim blaming statements that spill from the mouths of people who have no idea what abuse feels like. From celebrities and newsreaders on television and in the press. From the general public who comment ridiculous, ignorant statements under news stories in social media – things that people will never understand unless they have been there. Social media can be a means for some victims to finally have a voice but it is also a vicious platform for bullying by those with little or no understanding.

I am writing this open letter because I want people to understand what abuse feels like, from my point of view anyway. I want people to know that you can’t “Just tell someone” I told and I want to make you aware that it doesn’t make it all better. In fact, for me and many other victims, it made things 100 times worse.

I am a married, middle aged woman. I worked for many years in a male dominated industry. I have never considered myself a feminist. In fact, I was quite happy to be “One of the boys”. I was the young woman who smiled and blushed when I was wolf whistled while passing a building site. I was never offended – society told me I should take it as a sign of appreciation, a compliment – and I did. This is the conditioning little girls of my generation grew up with. Look nice and smile and if the boys show you good attention you are doing it right. Make the best of your looks, don’t get too over weight, have nice hair and clothes and smell nice and you will be successful. You will be appreciated.

I married young and was blissfully happy. I managed to get through life passing off unwanted sexual advances with a joke or a cheeky retort. Most blokes took the hint and left it when they realised I was not interested. My problems began 6 years ago when one didn’t take the hint. I started a new job and was happily introduced to “The Team”. They seemed a nice bunch and I fitted in well. I enjoyed the work and I was good at my job. I appeared to be well liked and my appraisals all reflected this. My children had grown up, I was still happily married and my career was going well. I thought I had it all. This one man at work however singled me out for special attention. He told me how good I was at my job and how well I looked for a woman with grown up children. I was flattered. He was decent, had nice manners, lived in a nice area, wore a suit and opened doors for ladies. Just a general good guy who was well thought of. Imagine my surprise 6 weeks into the job when he sent me a text asking me to sleep with him. I was shocked at how blunt and out of the blue the text was. I confronted him and told him I was happily married and not interested. He too was married and naively I asked him why he would send me this when he had a wife at home. He said it added excitement to his relationship and I should try it. I politely declined his offer and thought that was an end to the matter. Despite that incident I liked this guy and worked well with him, so I let it pass, after all I had dealt with it… right? It wasn’t an issue for me as I was not interested in being unfaithful to my husband and was certainly not remotely attracted to this man. I continued to work with him and I enjoyed the compliments. We got on well and he continued to compliment me. We had a laugh and we joked about things – just anything, life in general. He became my friend. His comments became more personal, more sexual, more directed at what he would like to do to me. Because he was my friend I laughed them off and told him to dream on and it wasn’t ever going to happen. When he got really explicit I told him to back off and said he had no respect for me. I asked him how he would feel if someone spoke to his wife like that. He backed off a bit and I thought he’d got the message. We continued to work together and his behaviour was usually good. His messages continued to be rude but I just accepted that was part of who he was. I mentioned to my boss and some colleagues about how inappropriate some of his behaviour was but I thought I had it under control. I thought I could handle the situation.

A couple of years into the job I was working alone with him. I was chatting to him and when I noticed he wasn’t replying I turned around to see what he was doing. He had his trousers open and he was exposing his privates. I gasped and said “Whoa, that’s out of order” He walked towards me with a piercing stare and said “Touch it”. I was mortified. I said “No – I’m leaving”. He quickly sorted his trousers and apologised. I was angry and told him so. He said sorry and once again, I thought I had dealt with it. I didn’t report him. He was my friend and I didn’t want to get him sacked over a misunderstanding. That’s all it was – right? We continued to work together and we chatted lots. He came to my house and had dinner with my family. He gave my husband a bottle of whisky. It was normal – I thought. He just had a problem with his boundaries some times. There were a few more inappropriate incidents and I always told him to stop it. I tried to laugh them off but he always looked serious and then sorry. He told me he couldn’t stop thinking about me and that he had fallen in love with me. I told him I loved my husband and could only be his friend.

After 3 and a half years of working with him we were sent on a conference. He came to my room with a bottle of wine. It’s okay to have a drink with a friend I thought.. We had drank together before with my husband. Except this time, it wasn’t okay. I turned around and he was standing there in his boxer shorts. I laughed I was so shocked. He wasn’t laughing. That piercing stare was there again and he wasn’t my friend any more. He grabbed me and pressed his mouth over mine. Inside my head my silent voice screamed for help but my mouth wouldn’t let a single sound out. Something shocked my soul straight out of my body and it hovered at the bottom of the bed as I watched him abuse my body. When he was finished he stood up and said “Are you okay?” I nodded, unable to speak as tears run down my cheeks. He left and I immediately run a bath and began to scrub my body. I was numb and shocked and I couldn’t get clean. Tears rolled down my cheeks and my thoughts turned to “This is what people on television do when they have been raped” My brain was arguing with me though as I was thinking “It can’t be rape as you didn’t stop him”. I turned on the shower and stood up, desperate to get out of the dirty, contaminated bath water. The bath emptied and I immediately filled it again, desperate to sit in the water as the shower couldn’t reach the bits I needed to cleanse. I felt so dirty, so ashamed. How could I have let myself get into that situation? No one would ever know what he had done. It was my shame to carry.

My head went into autopilot as I had to meet our colleagues for dinner and I needed to look “Normal”. I sat with my colleagues, 3 other men and HIM and ate dinner like nothing had happened. The only way to get over this was to pretend it didn’t happen. It was the only way I could survive. After dinner I made my excuses and returned to my room. I began to undress for bed. There was a knock at the door so I put on a robe and opened the door. He was back and he was smiling. He pushed past me and the door closed behind him. He pulled off my robe. I didn’t stop him. It didn’t matter I was already dirty and violated. He left straight afterwards and inside I felt dead. That night he murdered my soul. Somehow, I did the whole scrubbing thing again and ended up in my bed with a towel around my wet hair and the sheets sticking to my damp body. I’m not sure if I slept or where my head was but soon it was morning and time to get ready for day 2 of the conference. I acted normal because the alternative was people would know. I could never let anyone know. I would rather die.

I returned home later that day. I felt like I had a neon sign above my head and everyone would know. I desperately didn’t want my husband to touch me in case he would sense the change in me. I thought he would immediately know I was dirty now. I opened a bottle of wine, poured a glass and gulped it like a marathon runner who needed the hydration. My husband wanted to know why I was guzzling the wine. I snapped at him and told him I was tired after the long drive. I just needed to drink and forget about the previous night. I needed to silence the demons and I think it was an elixir for them as it appeared to numb them for a while.

For the next 3 months I followed the same routine. Go to work, keep busy, come home, get drunk, go to bed and silently sob into my pillow hoping no one would hear. I felt like the filth was coursing through my body, infecting me like some inner virus that eventually was going to be so obvious that everyone would see it. My colleague was no longer my friend. He had achieved his goal and was now suddenly too busy to talk to me. I was hurt and confused. I needed answers. When he did talk to me it was to tell me that his wife was stalking me. She was obsessed by me and was going to contact my husband and tell him about my “affair”. Desperate for the dirty secret to stay hidden I emailed her and tried to explain that there was no affair and I was not and never had been attracted to her husband. No one could ever know about the abuse. I’d rather die.

Then fate stepped in and I suffered a bad house fire. I burst into tears and the floodgates opened. At that point, even Noah couldn’t have kept me afloat. My husband wanted to know why I was so upset over a house. Material things had never been that important to us and he was confused. At last though I had something to blame for the tears and I didn’t have to hide them for a while. I had a reason to cry. I repeated it like a mantra “It’s the stress of the fire”. Some people even looked like they believed me but it gave me no comfort. I kept drinking to make the thoughts go away and if I drank enough it would knock me out so that I could sleep for a couple of hours. I was exhausted and I began to look ill as the weight fell off me. I went to the doctor to be signed off work due to the house fire. I sobbed and sobbed and begged to be STI tested. I needed to know that the contamination coursing through me wasn’t going to infect my husband. My tests were clear but I still felt dead inside.

I drank every night to get to sleep and then woke a couple of hours later as the anaesthetic effects wore off. My head replayed that night over and over like a badly made porn video with no sound. Each night I tried to answer my questions about why I didn’t fight. Like wakening early from a dream and wanting to add an ending to it to tie up the loose ends, I desperately wanted to change the way I reacted that night. I wanted to scream and shout and fight and do everything that I always thought I would have done “Should that ever happen to me”. I hated myself for being so weak. I couldn’t bear to look at my husband, the man I adored, because I had cheated on him. I had allowed another man to use my body. I should have been able to stop him. I was so ashamed.

Eventually my husband rolled over in bed, when I thought I was crying silently. He said “I hear you crying every night. I can tell by your breathing. You need to tell me what’s wrong- and don’t blame the house fire”. I couldn’t hide the crying any more as I sobbed “I can’t tell you. I can’t”. The last thing I wanted was for him to see the filthy me. He insisted I tell and as I unburdened the worst secret of my life I felt like a weight was being released from my body. Unfortunately, I watched his face crumble as his life imploded and my heavy, filthy secret began to crush his soul instead. Hurting him so badly tore my heart out and I immediately wished I could snatch the secret back, but it was too big, too heavy and too free now.

He was broken as I begged him to believe me that I didn’t want him to do it to me. He shouted at me “If you didn’t want it - that’s rape”. I cried “It was my fault I didn’t stop him”. He repeated “If you didn’t want it - that’s rape”. I had been blaming myself for so long I was confused. I called Rape Crisis as I needed answers. As soon as the woman answered the phone I cried and cried and sobbed out the whole story, the sexual harassment, the friendship, the exposure, the confusion and the shame…… She listened and told me that I had no reason to feel guilty as I had been raped. It didn’t make sense. I’d seen rape on Crimewatch. It was carried out by strangers with knives not friends who tell you they adore you. He said it was my fault for looking so sexy that he couldn’t resist. I was still confused but felt that I needed to report him to the police for the abuse. He had sent me a photograph of his erection and I knew that was illegal.

The police arrived at my house a couple of hours later. I wasn’t prepared. I was in shock as I had only just said it out loud to myself. I was still confused. I still thought it was my fault.

The policewoman was a SOLO – a sexual offenses liaison officer. She questioned me for 10 hours solid. I cried and I kept repeating “It was my fault as I didn’t stop him”. The day turned to night and darkness. My house had no electricity after the house fire and she used her torch to light up her notebook as she took my statement. I hadn’t eaten anything for 24 hours and I had no support. I was confused and desperately wanted my husband. I needed to know he was coping with this news. I knew I wasn’t. Eventually at 11.30pm the SOLO left with my 35 page statement, which I had signed without reading as I just wanted her to go.

Seven weeks later he was detained and gave a “No comment” interview. They released him without charge. The police told me there was insufficient evidence to charge him. When I protested the SOLO told me not to tell her how to do her job and said “It’s not nice for someone who has never been in trouble with the police before to be detained.”

I thought now that I had told, everything would be okay. That’s what people tell you isn’t it? That’s what the media tell you. “No matter how long ago it happened. You will be listened to. You will be believed.”

Someone told me “The truth is like a lion, set it free and it will defend itself” So I set the beast free.

It didn’t defend itself. It ruined my life. You see our society can’t cope with the truth, so people find it easier to call you a liar and demand you prove your abuse.

I reported him to my employer for sexual harassment. I gave specific details of his abuse and they called me a liar. I had been telling my boss and my colleagues about his behaviour for 3 years but we were friends so they said I consented to his abuse. He admitted sending me the indecent image but said I sent him indecent images too. I knew I didn’t so I asked to see them. They said he had deleted them now. He reported me for harassing his wife because I had emailed her while he was threatening me she was going to tell my husband. They upheld his complaint.

He said we’d been having an affair for 3 years and I was a jilted lover. They said he was the victim and I was vindictive and vexatious. My employer told me I should have said NO more than once. They said I agreed to a wine with my colleague so therefore they believed the sex was consensual. I wanted to die. I was telling the truth and no one would listen. I was suffering panic attacks and flashbacks. I didn’t want to leave the house. I felt constantly afraid and constantly sick. I couldn’t trust my own judgement anymore. My health hit rock bottom. I was diagnosed with PTSD and prescribed antidepressants and sleeping pills. I began to feel like it was easier when I told no one – denial didn’t hurt as much as being called a liar.

My employer dragged my grievance out for a year then sacked me. At each stage they tried to bully me into silence. I fought back because I knew I was telling the truth. The union funded my legal representation and at last I felt like I had someone on my side. The company dragged the legal fight out for more than a year. I was unable to work for 2 years. A date was set for the employment tribunal and the solicitors started to negotiate. 3 weeks before the tribunal my solicitor said the company had agreed to settle out of court and would pay me a little over one year’s wages. I told them I didn’t want to settle as I wanted justice, not money. They said if I didn’t accept this “Reasonable offer” the union would withdraw my legal funding. How could a year’s wages be reasonable after losing 17 month’s wages, a job I loved, my career, my company car, my reputation and my mental health. They supported a rapist and blamed me repeatedly for over 2 years. They drove me to attempt suicide and put my family through hell. I spent hours at a time curled up in a corner on the kitchen floor desperate to feel safe.

Not accepting the offer would lose me the settlement and the chance to repay the 20k debts I had accumulated while being unemployed. It would also mean I would have to pay 20k+ to find new legal representation and the company also threatened if I took this to court and was awarded less than what they had offered I would be burdened with their legal costs too for forcing it to tribunal. If you accuse a large company of not protecting your human rights – they can pay their way out of the legal system. Make a “reasonable offer” and the victim is deemed to be unreasonable for not wanting money. All I wanted was to be listened to, to be believed and safeguarded. All I wanted was to go to work and earn a living. Once again, I was bullied into silence.

Our society isn’t geared up at all to support victims of sexual harassment. No wonder victims don’t report. So, the next time you want to point the finger at someone who won’t report sexual harassment without support from other victims, consider this and let my story be a warning to those who think reporting is easy. If I had not reported I would be financially better off and still have a job. The legal system tells me you should let men abuse you and stay quiet because even if you “Win” your case, (and there is about as much chance of that as there is of getting a rape conviction) you will be broken, damaged and financially penalised.

Received Backlash for speaking truth

I spoke out, all I got was people shaming me, guilting me, telling me "I deserve rape" "Go get rape" turning things around and setting me up. I was gaslighted and ghosted from so called "friends" who were never friends. My rapists and its harem got away with evil so far and have been rewarded. I have been blocked from many things on purpose, because my abuser's enablers have connections and resources and knew I had no one to help me, the evils exploited that.

Me too

Unfortunately this is the society we live in. Abusers are master manipulators. This is what enables them to abuse and dupe others into believing they are the innocent victims.
Sexual predators, psychopaths and narcissists cause devastating damage to victims and their families and walk away with no conscience.
The victim (if they have the strength and support to survive) is left broken, ashamed and forever changed by the experience.

We're Not Panicking, We're Reacting. We're Not Hysterical, We're Angry.

It's not even been one day since women took to social media to share their experiences of harassment, assault and abuse throughout their lives, and we're already being gaslit.

In the wake of Sarah Everard's disappearance, and the arrest of a serving police officer on suspicion of murder in connection with her case, women we're trying to help everyone understand how scary it is for us just to leave the house by posting online - hoping to erode the culture that perpetuates violence against women. Less than 12 hours later, we're now being told we're 'hysterical'.

First, Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick issued a statement focusing on the statistics of kidnap and murder - presumably in an effort to reassure women. 'It is thankfully incredibly rare for a woman to be abducted from our streets,' she said. 'But I completely understand that despite this, women in London and the wider public – particularly those in the area where Sarah went missing – will be worried and may well be feeling scared.'

But that wasn't all. BBC's Radio 4 Today programme also gave airtime to a criminology professor who called us 'hysterical'.

'Women account for about a third of all murders,' Marion Fitzgerald of the University of Kent said. 'Men are far more likely to be murdered. Men are far more likely to be murdered by someone they don't know. Men are far more likely to be murdered in a public place, and that hasn't changed. I think I'm entitled to say as a woman, we shouldn't pander to stereotypes and get hysterical.'

Unfortunately, neither of these statements were reassuring. Yes, it might be rare for us to be kidnapped - but it certainly isn't rare for us to be subject to crimes like indecent exposure, sexual harassment and assault. These all exist on a spectrum of violence against women that breed a culture of fear. This is why we're sharing our stories of everything from being followed home to rape, because it's the entire system that allows men to get away with all kinds of crimes against women that needs to change. Maybe then, when these very extreme circumstances happen like in Sarah Everard's case, we can be reassured that they're 'incredibly rare'.

It's easy to point to statistics when women are screaming out for help - might we point to the very poignant one released yesterday that showed 97% of women have experienced sexual harassment - but generalising instances of violence by comparing men and women isn't helping anyone. Those statistics aren't accounting for the fact that women are more likely to be killed by a partner or ex, nor are they including all the near-misses, the thousands of reports women don't make because they don't think anything will come of it. If even rape has a 2% conviction rate, how are we meant to believe police will do anything about daily harassment?

All these iterations do is feed into the hands of men that use #NotAllMen as a means to ignore the problem and deflect blame. We can't get stuck debating whether or not women are at risk - our word alone should be enough proof, particularly since it's entirely clear that the justice system, and the statistics that come with it, does not work in favour of women.

Instead of diminishing our voices by implying we are irrational to be scared of men, how about listening to the countless stories being shared online right now and putting actions in place to eradicate the fear so many of us have become used to?

Often, we refuse to go out at night alone, we walk the shortest distance possible, we carry our keys in our hand, we buy self-defence spray or rape alarms, we wear trainers to run home from the tube, we constantly message or call friends and family anywhere we walk. As soon as we’re home, we send the ‘made it home’ text – which in and of itself is terrifying, as if we’re lucky to be alive, because actually… we are.

It shouldn't be second nature to arm yourself every time you leave the house.

We change how we dress, walk and talk, we take the most well-lit route homes, walk in zig-zags across the street when a man is behind us following the same route. We avoid walking near men at all costs, staying close to other women, we download personal safety apps, wear our earphones but don’t play anything through them so men don’t talk to us but we can still listen to our surroundings… we do so, so much.

That's the ironic thing about the statements implying 'hysteria'. In all of the stories shared online were women detail the things they do to feel safer, they're explaining how it's second-nature to do so. When you read the endless ways we try to protect ourselves, it seems like a lot - it seems like an effort. But actually, all of it has become so part and parcel of being a woman that it's as effortless to carry self-defence spray or ring your friends on arriving home safely as it is to tie our shoes. That's what this watershed moment is, realising that actually - everything we do is beyond what we should have to. It shouldn't be second nature to arm yourself every time you leave the house.

That's why we're angry. Because Sarah Everard did what we all do. She chose the route home that would be the most public and well-lit, she called her boyfriend as she walked, she wore trainers. And yet, the worst still happened. It’s that realisation that is causing countless women to share their pain over what’s happened online – knowing all too well, it could be any one of us.

Because we’re not the problem. We change our behaviour daily, we’re still in danger. The solution is clear: men need to change their behaviour. They need to listen to us when we talk about the dangers we face, talk about it with their friends, report their friends – they need to lead the structural shift in society so we’re no longer talking about women being victims, but men being dangerous.

If you're shouting ‘not all men’, you’re part of the problem. Because it’s enough men, and we don’t know who they are. Instead of being defensive, act to create a solution – you’re first instinct should be to protect those in harm’s way, not other men. That goes for the women crying 'hysteria' too, if your first instinct is to tell women to 'calm down', instead of what needs to be done - you're not helping anyone.

And if you need any more proof of how terrified women are, of how much we do to protect ourselves only for it to prove futile, just read the countless stories women are sharing online right now.

Who to Believe

One evening in January 2015, a mental health counselor named Foad Afshar met with a twelve-year-old boy inside his office in Concord, New Hampshire. Afshar was 55, a gregarious man with eyeglasses, thinning hair, and plans to retire that spring. As a teenager in 1977 he had emigrated alone from Tehran to Massachusetts, fleeing religious persecution. (His family was Baha’i, a non-Muslim religious sect.) “I had $500 and 50 words of English,” he said. He studied psychology and in 1984 moved to New Hampshire. Since then, he had worked at drug treatment centers and psychiatric hospitals, as a school guidance counselor, a special education and ESL director, and in 2005 he opened a private practice, working mostly with children. In 2010, he was elected president of the New Hampshire Psychological Association. When the family of the twelve-year-old first approached him, in November, Afshar had demurred, he had a full caseload and retirement on the horizon. He shared a list of colleagues he recommended. Weeks later, the family called again. The holidays were nearing, and they couldn’t find anyone else. Afshar agreed to provide “a short-term intervention” until the new year, when the family could try again.

The boy, identified in court documents as E.R., was in seventh grade. He played an instrument and club sports and liked to snowboard. In summers he liked to visit a family friend’s lake house on Winnipesaukee. Since his parents’ divorce, when he was five, E.R. had lived primarily with his father and older sister, and recently his father’s girlfriend, with whom the children had a difficult relationship. The girlfriend “yelled” and was “mean,” E.R. said. He began spending more time at his mother’s house, just a seven-minute walk. Because his mother worked overnight as a nurse, and slept during the day, E.R. passed most of his hours there alone—and, soon, getting into trouble. He shoplifted condoms and was caught smoking marijuana on campus before school. He and a friend stole lighter fluid. With a Zippo lighter and a can of Axe body spray, he made a small blowtorch. Knives were discovered in his pillowcase. His father worried he was becoming “a little bit lost.”

Over two months that winter, E.R. and Afshar met five times, on weekday evenings. “He seemed wicked nice,” E.R. said. He liked that Afshar could talk about sports, and that his office had games: a basketball net, a shelf of toys. E.R.’s father, retreating to a waiting room down a short hallway, noticed his son emerging from appointments seeming “relaxed,” and his mother told a pediatrician that E.R. was making “great strides.” In their fifth session, on January 6, 2015, according to E.R. and to a Merrimack County jury, Afshar slipped his hand beneath E.R.’s shirt and rubbed his fingernails across the boy’s chest and back. Then he reached down E.R.’s pants and rubbed his penis.

Because of Afshar’s stature in the community of mental health providers, and because of the shock of the allegation, coverage of his trial flooded local news outlets. There were front-page headlines, opinion columns, and radio reports. In the 17 months between arrest and trial, no other victims came forward. Police searched Afshar’s office, computer, and clinical files, and found no evidence of wrongdoing. “You don’t need it, if you believe [E.R.],” assistant County Attorney Kristin Vartanian argued to jurors. “You do not need any additional evidence to convict the defendant. You don’t need fingerprints or DNA, you don’t need an eyewitness to the crime.”

In June 2016, jurors found Afshar guilty of aggravated felonious sexual assault, simple assault, and two counts of unlawful mental health practice. He was sentenced to three to six years in prison, forbidden from unsupervised contact with children outside his family, and ordered to register as a sex offender.

That might have been the entire story—had the verdict proved any more than an unfortunate milestone in the case, had it not sent forth ripples of controversy and condem​nation, had the episode not revealed the limits of a criminal justice system, had a culture in reflection not faced obvious challenge—if the outcome provided anyone with any closure at all.

On a chilly, overcast afternoon in March, I met Kristin Vartanian. In person, she is friendly and disarming, with a habit of calling minors “kiddos,” even in discussion of criminal cases. She had just come from three days of professional training in sexual assault cases, especially against kiddos, and she told me sadly that the images she’d seen, of crime scenes, would stay with her. Since her prosecution of Afshar nearly two years earlier, a contentious law had been proposed in her state: House Bill 106, requiring corroborating evidence, beyond an allegation, in cases of sexual assault where the defendant has no prior conviction for the crime.

The reaction was national. Reason magazine called it “ridiculous” and “nonsense.” The Daily Beast ran a headline: “Lawmaker to Rape Victims: ‘Prove It.’” A police sergeant in Concord, where Afshar was tried, condemned the bill as “nothing short of a Pedophile Protection Act,” a phrase that was picked up by the Associated Press. The bill was also troublingly vague, Vartanian, who now works as a prosecutor in Rockingham County, told me. Even she and her colleagues could not reliably predict the effect of the law if it passed. “It depends on the definition of corroborating evidence. If you don’t define that, we’re really getting murky.”

A line I’d heard before traveling to New Hampshire was that the state requires no corroborating evidence to convict a person of sexual assault. This is true but misleading. Actually, in most states, no corroborating evidence is required for any conviction at all. Criminal laws do not stipulate evidentiary minimums. In the wake of an allegation, police investigate, based on that investigation, a prosecutor chooses whether or not to press charges, based on those charges, a jury chooses whether or not to convict. This sequence applies whether a thousand pieces of evidence emerge or none of them do. What New Hampshire was trying with HB 106 was not to eliminate an exception, but to create one.

It is not the first state to do so. Until the last half-century, states commonly required corroboration. “The law is well established,” read a 1904 court ruling in Georgia, “that a man shall not be convicted of rape on the testimony of the woman alone, unless there are some concurrent circumstances which tend to corroborate her evidence.” A 1959 law in New York, in the words of one historian, required corroboration of “each material element of the offense—force, penetration, and identity of the accused.” These and other statutes grew from a concern that jurors could be moved to sympathy by any description of so heinous an offense, no matter how specious—and from misogyny, rather explicitly. “Women often falsely accuse men of sexual attacks to extort money, to force marriage, to satisfy a childish desire for notoriety, or to attain personal revenge,” read a 1970 argument in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. Two years later, in The Yale Law Journal, a contributor remarked, “It is generally believed that false accusations of sex crimes in general, and rape in particular, are much more common than untrue charges of other crimes,” adding later, that “the dangers of unfounded rape charges are particularly common and dangerous when made by children.”

By the 1980s, owing mainly to the women’s rights movement and to a dawning awareness of the realities of sexual assault, a majority of such laws were repealed. Stephen Schulhofer, an expert in criminal justice at NYU Law School who specializes in sexual assault, told me, “Victims can make false accusations of theft, robbery, fraud. The mere possibility of a false accusation doesn’t generate these kinds of requirements anywhere else.” Arbitrarily steepening the barriers to some criminal verdicts but not others can make legitimate convictions impossible, he said. “We have this philosophy that it’s better for nine guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to be convicted. This is more like letting 999 guilty people go free.”

Today, 36 states and the federal government do not require corroborating evidence for a conviction of sexual assault. Neither does the Military Code of Justice or Guam or Puerto Rico. The remaining states do so only in limited circumstances. Mississippi requires corroboration if an alleged victim’s testimony is “discredited or contradicted by other credible evidence.”* Missouri requires it if testimony is “in conflict with physical facts, surrounding circumstances, and common experience.” Arizona requires it if “the story is physically impossible or so incredible that no reasonable person could believe it.” No state has a corroborative policy specific to children.

Nonetheless, the actual practice of criminal justice means that many victims of sexual assault do require evidence for their claims to be received seriously, since, well before persuading a jury, he or she must persuade officers and then a prosecutor. Joe Cherniske, who co-led the prosecution of Foad Afshar with Vartanian, told me that most cases brought forward by his office do include corroborating evidence, regardless of statutory requirements. The Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, perhaps the foremost organization in America for investigating crimes against children, recommends the collection of such evidence, as studies show it increases the odds an allegation will result in formal charges and confessions. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, corroboration is helpful to “avoid the normalization of victim blaming” and for pursuit of sexual assault cases as more than “he said, she said.”

A wrinkle is that corroborating evidence is often unavailable. Or, rather, it depends on how one defines the term. A majority of sexual assaults are committed outside the view of potential witnesses. “And a lot of these cases aren’t reported right away,” Cherniske said. “They don’t get reported within that day or that week or that month. By the time we bring them into the hospital, there’s not necessarily going to be physical evidence of trauma.” Circumstances are especially difficult when the victim is a child. Because young victims are most often violated by adults they know and trust, even timely examinations seldom reveal signs of physical resistance, like torn clothing or bruises. An assault that does not include penetration—only groping or fondling—rarely leaves visible marks. According to the Department of Justice, as many as 40 percent of youth victims of sexual assault show no symptoms, and many do not report at all, frightened of retaliation from the abuser or from their parents.

However, a wider array of evidence might be understood as corroborating, even psychological symptoms such as nightmares. “Those who say there’s no corroborating evidence are thinking very narrowly,” Victor Vieth, the founder of the Gundersen center, told me. “They’re thinking of hair, DNA, the things you see on television dramas. I’ve never worked on a case of child abuse where, if you look hard enough, you won’t find corroborating evidence.” Vieth invited me to imagine a child who describes that his or her assault occurred in a room painted blue. Police should obtain a warrant and visit the room. Were its walls blue? If so, that was corroborating evidence.

As many as 40 percent of youth victims of sexual assault show no symptoms, and many do not report at all, frightened of retaliation from the abuser or from their parents.

No text of HB 106 clarified the term, and this was what Vartanian meant by murky. How were authorities to interpret corroboration? It would be difficult to overstate the magnitude of the decision. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately one in six boys, and one in four girls, are sexually abused before they turn 18. In many states, laws governing the investigation, prosecution, or sentencing of child abuse are named for the children whom adult authorities failed. Brooke’s Law, in Vermont. Megan’s Law, in New Jersey. The Jessica Lunsford Act, in Florida. The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Act. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.

I wondered whether, in Vartanian’s view, the Afshar case included any corroborating evidence. “Absolutely.” E.R. was able to describe the interior of Afshar’s office, including what furniture he sat on. “All that was corroborated and found during a search warrant. Dr. Afshar admitted that he used methods that our victim talked about.”

Neither of those was in dispute, I pointed out. Everyone, including Afshar, agreed the child and therapist had met for five appointments, four of them before the day in question. It stood to reason that E.R was able to describe the interior of the room. Everyone also agreed on what treatment methods the therapist was using, and that no credible application of them included any contact with genitals. I confessed it was difficult for me to see how either fact clarified the truth of what happened—what, in a meaningful sense, they were corroborating.

That was a question for jurors to decide, Vartanian answered. And jurors had decided.

In late 2014, E.R. was nearing the end of his first semester of seventh grade, and his home life, he would later testify, “was a cesspool.” He signed up for a program at the Boys & Girls Club. Enrollment required that he pass a physical, including, he believed, a genital exam. The prospect made him uneasy. “I don’t like when they put their hand down your pants or anything like that.” He mentioned the physical to Afshar, who decided that, alongside E.R.’s more abstract complaints—turmoil at home, misbehavior at school—this seemed like a specific, tangible treatment goal. Together they set about trying to address it.

First Afshar suggested that E.R. ask his physician to examine him “above the clothes.” This succeeded: According to the pediatrician’s clinical notes, and to E.R’s mother, who was present for the appointment, the pediatrician agreed his discomfort was typical for a boy E.R.’s age, and the genital exam could be deferred until he was older. Next Afshar led E.R. through relaxation, visualization, and breathing exercises, and a technique called systematic desensitization. Gradually, Afshar would expose E.R. to triggers of his anxiety, to alleviate the stress they provoked. For a phobia of bees, a counselor might expose a patient to a buzzing sound, without any sting—in this way, an anxiety could slowly be mollified.

E.R. had named a phobia of genital exams. At their fifth appointment, after asking his permission, Afshar touched the boy’s forearm. Then, according to Afshar, he instructed E.R. to touch his own belly, and to imagine that Afshar’s hand was doing the touching. This was the nearest Afshar could get to the trigger of E.R.’s anxiety, he later explained, without crossing an obvious boundary. According to E.R., something very different happened. Afshar reached beneath the boy’s pants and underwear. “I didn’t know what to do,” E.R. later testified. “I was in shock, so I just let it happen.”

A week passed uneventfully. Ten minutes before their next scheduled meeting, however, the boy told his sister what happened. Together the siblings told their father, who canceled the appointment. The following day, after a discussion between his parents, E.R.’s mother phoned a guidance counselor at the middle school, who phoned the Department of Children, Youth, and Families, which contacted police.

The next afternoon, a pair of detectives knocked on the door of Afshar’s office in Concord, interrupting a session with a patient. He asked if they could return later. (Afshar, who maintains his innocence, later said he assumed that someone in his family had died, and the detectives had come to notify him.) Over his shoulder, detectives noticed his patient was a child, and they pressed to speak immediately.

According to E.R., Afshar reached beneath the boy’s pants and underwear. “I didn’t know what to do,” E.R. later testified. “I was in shock, so I just let it happen.”

When they asked if any patient had recently terminated counseling, Afshar said one had and, realizing they must mean E.R., said he thought he knew where a misunderstanding might have arisen. He explained the upcoming genital exam, the tangible goal, and the therapeutic techniques he’d used. He demonstrated on one of the detectives. The detectives asked to see Afshar’s clinical notes, but Afshar didn’t have any: After intake and orientation, when Afshar filled out six pages of assessment forms and a mental status exam, he hadn’t taken any further clinical notes in five weeks. Detectives left empty- handed. A day later, Afshar reconstructed his clinical notes on E.R. from memory. Four days after that, on January 20, detectives returned to his office with a search warrant. (A further complication existed, besides Afshar’s note-taking habits. Due to what he attributed to disorganization on his part, in December 2014, his license lapsed with the New Hampshire Board of Mental Health Practice. He quickly realized the error and filed for renewal, but in the interim he continued his appointments. Two of his meetings with E.R., including the one in question, occurred while Afshar was practicing without a license.)

Though detectives searched Afshar’s office and computer, neither turned up anything incriminating or suspicious. Because eight days elapsed between the incident and its reporting to police, and because its description included no fluid or penetration, detectives decided it was unlikely that E.R.’s pants or underwear would offer any evidence. They never collected or examined them for DNA or skin cells. At trial, an expert for the state confirmed that systematic desensitization was a “generally accepted treatment method,” especially for phobias, and was often paired with relaxation and breathing techniques, precisely as Afshar described. But it was also vital to take clinical notes, and to obtain informed consent from a parent, neither of which Afshar had done. A result was confusion. Although it turned out no genital exam was required after all, understandably E.R. did not know this in advance and, since he was the one communicating with his therapist, Afshar didn’t know it, either. Meanwhile, E.R.’s father knew of the upcoming exam, and mentioned it to Afshar, but offhandedly, he was only making conversation. He regarded the exam as separate from his son’s behavioral issues. Sitting in the nearby waiting room, E.R.’s father didn’t know touch therapy was occurring at all.

One need pay only the barest attention to current events to recognize how often our culture has dismissed or belittled the victims of sexual assault, how seldom we have heard them.

It didn’t help that both police and prosecutors seemed unfamiliar with psychotherapy. At their initial interview inside his office, Afshar had told detectives he understood E.R. was in a bit of a “time crunch” to deal with his phobia, because the genital exam was required to enroll at the Boys & Girls Club. Detectives mistook this as a therapeutic technique—“time crunching,” like visualization or hypnosis. The phrase made its way into their official report, and prosecutors raised it at trial. What was this time crunching? “There is no such thing as ‘time crunching,’” Afshar testified. “That’s the stupidest thing I ever read in that police report.”

“I assume that you feel betrayed by [E.R.]?” Cherniske asked.

“According to you, he made all this up?”

“I don’t know what happened,” Afshar said. “I don’t know if he made it up, I don’t know if other people made it up. I have no idea. I know the allegations are false. Totally, completely.”

E.R. was 14 by now. Like many 14-year-olds, he could be endearing: On the stand, when he told Vartanian he no longer hung around with the classmate with whom he was caught smoking, and she asked why, E.R. replied that he found the boy “annoying.” What made him say that? “He doesn’t care what happens. Like, he doesn’t respect anything.”

He could also be funny. What was his sister like? Vartanian wondered. “Grumpy.” Was she ever not grumpy? “A rare chance.”

At times he could be conspicuously deflecting, as though he were coached. Was he aware that shoplifting was wrong? “Yeah.” What had made him do it, then? “Peer pressure, and I didn’t want to not fit in. I felt nervous, like that if I didn’t fit in, they would make fun of me and judge me.” Had he wanted to do those things that got him into trouble? “No.”

At times he could be achingly sympathetic, even as the reason aroused curiosity. Within days of his mother’s testimony that her ex-husband’s new girlfriend, whom E.R. disliked, made E.R. feel he was losing his father’s attention, E.R. agreed on the stand that since reporting the assault everyone had been “comforting” and “sympathetic” toward him, and he had gotten a lot of “positive attention.”

“And your mom and dad have been united in supporting you, like you had never seen them united before?” Afshar’s attorney asked.

“That’s a good thing, isn’t it, for mom and dad to get along?”

“In fact, they get along better now than they have ever since they got divorced, right?”

“Uh-huh,” E.R. said. “This is definitely the best in a long time.”

Also like many 14-year-olds, E.R. was not always perfectly honest. “He lies a lot,” his sister had told detectives, though she insisted he wasn’t lying about this. At their last appointment, in fact, Afshar had confronted E.R. about two apparent lies. E.R. had told the counselor he was Facebook friends with someone who Afshar happened to know had no Facebook account. He also told the counselor he’d never had a girlfriend. Then E.R.’s father mentioned his son having recently broken up with one. In their session on January 6, 2015, Afshar asked E.R. about these inconsistencies. A week later, E.R. told his father he was groped.

Vartanian and Cherniske each told me, separately, that prosecutors routinely know more than circumstances permit them to introduce at trial, though both declined to say if this were true of the Afshar case specifically. In a file at the Merrimack County courthouse, I discovered a portion of what they might have been hinting at. Some of Afshar’s supporters were publicizing that he had passed a pair of lie detector tests a court ruled inadmissible at trial. This was not entirely the truth. Actually it was detectives who invited Afshar to take a polygraph, during their visit to his office, and Afshar declined, saying—according to detectives’ notes—that such exams were “unreliable,” and he felt “too anxious” for an accurate result. Eight days later, Afshar did take a polygraph, administered by a private provider, not police. He passed. His attorney showed the results to police, who concluded that the questions in the exam were too vague. So Afshar returned to the private provider, who rephrased his questions. Again Afshar passed, again the results were shared with police. This time, among several problems with the test, a departmental expert concluded that Afshar “appeared to be using counter measures.” Eventually both sides agreed to withhold any mention of polygraphs from trial. Afshar’s two passing grades later became public knowledge. No other facts from the episode did.

Vartanian and Cherniske each told me that prosecutors routinely know more than circumstances permit them to introduce at trial, though both declined to say if this were true of the Afshar case specifically.

In the same file, I found a document that was never introduced in any motion or hearing. It was a letter of support from a patient who’d met Afshar on and off for a decade, beginning when he was twelve, the same age as E.R. After reading it, detectives phoned him to follow up. “He said Dr. Afshar would massage his muscles all over his body, to include his back, shoulders, arms, and abdomen,” detectives wrote in their notes. The patient, now a young man, suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, and he told them Afshar seemed “knowledgeable.” The counselor would “massage and push on his abdomen in order to increase circulation to his intestines to help his IBS.” Sometimes this happened above the young man’s clothes, sometimes it happened beneath them. “[He] said Dr. Afshar sometimes pressed on his abdomen over his clothes below his ‘belt line’ but he denied that Dr. Afshar ever touched his genitals.”

The courthouse file included the letter. “Never have i felt uncomfortable by his touch in anyway nor do i believe it was in anyway meant to be sexual,” the young man wrote. “One reason I have seen him for counseling is for my troubled ability to trust people and yet i still trust him completely. I hate to see how much good he does to selflessly help people being thrown away by these trying circumstances.”

The list of organizations that opposed HB 106 included some unusual allies: the County Attorneys Association and the Department of Safety, but also the state chapter of the ACLU. A House committee determined the bill would leave the state “with the weakest sexual assault statute in the nation.” A press release by the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence decried the proposal as “a blueprint for how to get away with sexual assault,” and announced it “would require either DNA evidence or an eyewitness,” a claim that, while untrue, reflected the widespread confusion about what corroborating meant. A public hearing in February 2017 stretched nearly four hours when 120 people showed up. Reporters for New Hampshire Public Radio described attendees wearing stickers that read, I believe victims. Others wore different stickers: Justice for Foad. The bill proved so controversial that one of its co-sponsors later declined to discuss it with me at all, another withdrew her support and voted against it. “It was a major mistake,” she told me. “I really thought I was doing an OK thing. That bill was the hardest lesson I ever learned.” At the end of 2017, the proposal was tabled indefinitely.

Still, the original controversy persisted. If HB 106 was no answer, then what was? If certain ills plague any law that requires corroboration, others plague any case that proceeds without it. A case like this presents obstacles for everyone. For victims, it means no proof of their experience, and therefore their trauma is too often dismissed. For the accused, it means the absence of such proof does not reliably exculpate them. A defense attorney is tasked with countering what evidence prosecutors introduce. If this evidence consists solely of the word of the victim, then that is what he counters. An attorney for a client like Foad Afshar has little choice but to accuse an alleged victim like E.R., however politely, of lying. Wasn’t this precisely the treatment victims were asking to avoid, especially in the present moment? An adult with a conscience need pay only the barest attention to current events to recognize how often our culture has dismissed or belittled the victims of sexual assault, how seldom we have heard them. Wasn’t it vital to treat victims more decently, and didn’t that mean believing them? But how far was it right to extend that principle—and given the presumption of innocence, weren’t our laws designed not to? Without evidence, what is the alternative?

Wasn’t it vital to treat victims more decently, and didn’t that mean believing them? But how far was it right to extend that principle—and given the presumption of innocence, weren’t our laws designed not to?

When I mentioned these concerns to Jennifer Long, the CEO of AEquitas, a national resource for prosecutors of gender-based violence, she agreed the quandary I was noticing shaped many cases that lacked corroborating evidence. But it was also the underlying dynamic of any case of sexual assault, she said. “All you’re doing is playing into what people believe already, to blame the victim. Challenging the veracity comes along with the court process.” Or, as Joe Cherniske told me, “The premise of the prosecution of these cases, where there’s no one else present for the crime, is that the victim has to be telling the truth. And the premise of the defense is that the victim is either confused, mistaken, or lying. I don’t know how else they could go at it.”

An additional frustration is that, with so many facts undisputed, each side is simply left to argue, in testimony and character witnesses, how best to interpret them. A trial with no evidence, or at least no conclusive evidence, yields no discoveries. Only inferences. Most of those who believed Afshar guilty assumed that more victims existed, though with none coming forward, and also statistics about underreporting, this was impossible to prove or disprove. The appearance of no other victims showed either that Afshar was a successful criminal or that he was an innocent man. For much of his career, Afshar treated the neediest of children, including those with disabilities or from broken homes. This showed that he was either predatory or altruistic. To clients and their parents, Afshar often gave his personal email address and cell phone number. This showed that he was either grooming or generous. Upon hearing the accusation against him, Afshar urged detectives to consider his reputation—“that he had been in business for about 30 years, that nothing like this had ever come up before,” one officer recalled. This showed that he was either credible or manipulative. E.R. had a recent history of misbehavior and dishonesty. This showed the boy was unreliable. Or else it revealed why Afshar had targeted him.

Before shuttering his practice, Afshar maintained a professional web site, and when detectives visited it, they noticed it “goes to great lengths to sell his qualifications and services to help children.” This made sense for a therapist who worked primarily with the young. But another interpretation existed. The web site “by itself does not imply pedophilic or criminal tendencies on his part,” read a detective’s supporting affidavit for a search warrant. “But it cannot be ignored that sexual predators that target children frequently choose careers which provide them with unsupervised access to children.” The affidavit continued, “His self-described ‘passion’ for children’s well-being, his obvious admiration of their world-view, and his hope that he does not lose his ‘sense of childhood’ all take on a sinister tone in this light. Although Dr. Afshar communicates noble intentions for his patients, it is noteworthy that the web site and its language are also consistent with a sexual predator attempting to lure additional child targets.”

In her closing argument, Vartanian looked similarly to Afshar’s credentials. “He expects you to believe him. It’s clear that he’s accustomed to that, people taking him at his word.” When I spoke to her, she mentioned Jerry Sandusky and Larry Nassar, two convicted serial sexual assaulters, both of whom are in prison. How did those abusers continue for so long? “People have a hard time with anyone who’s in a position of authority, and had success, and has the respect of their community, believing that they could harm a child,” she said. No parent wants to face the possibility of his or her own child in danger, so they simply refuse to believe it is possible. Vartanian, and several others I spoke with, are parents, they can understand this impulse, even sympathize with it. But they believe it is a form of denial. “We’re all opposed to child abuse in the abstract,” Victor Vieth told me. “We’re seldom opposed to it when we see it up close and personal. And the reason for that is that it’s someone we know.”

After Afshar’s sentencing, some mental health care providers in New Hampshire reportedly began to change the way they provided treatment, out of fear that an unfounded accusation might destroy their livelihoods.

After Afshar was convicted, a web site was set up,, for people to contribute to his legal fund. (In all, more than $50,000 has been raised.) A newsletter sends updates on his case to subscribers. “It would not be unfair to compare these dynamics to those of the Salem witch trials,” one read. Another included a letter from Afshar, from inside prison. “I can’t tell one day from another, and live in a space the size of a car parking space with no direct natural light and lots of noise—just loud, incomprehensible, often violent, crude conversations intertwined with the clanging of heavy metal doors…. I cope one hour at a time.” Newspaper photographs during this period, from a mugshot and appearances at appeal hearings, show a paler, gaunter Afshar, in prison garb, with an unkempt beard and eyes downcast. These photographs became their own controversy, a reporter for the local newspaper, the Concord Monitor, told me, when readers began phoning to complain. “They said, ‘You’re making him look like a criminal. He’s not a criminal.’ What we would explain was, he had been convicted of this crime, and we need a photo of him to illustrate our story.”

A therapist often has no secretary or receptionist, no assistant or support staff. How are they to protect themselves, if they are innocent? After Afshar’s sentencing, some mental health care providers in New Hampshire reportedly began to change the way they provided treatment, including video recording sessions, out of fear that an unfounded accusation might destroy their livelihoods. Others have ceased accepting into their treatment any child diagnosed with certain personality disorders, or whose family life seems adversarial, meaning a child whose parents are separated or divorced. In other words, precisely those children who might most need counseling. How many providers have altered their practice in response to Afshar, or whether they tally enough to seriously reduce treatment opportunities for children in the state, is uncertain. The community of therapists, like the community of sexual assault survivors, is not a monolith. Neither are those the only two constituencies with meaningful interests at stake. Nor is New Hampshire the only place. Every other state is in the same position.

The creator of and the newsletter is a psychologist named Mike Kandle, who works from a home office in a hilly, wooded neighborhood in Durham, near the University of New Hampshire. For someone so outspoken about the vulnerability of his profession to unfounded allegations, he seemed to practice in a particularly vulnerable setting, I noticed. He agreed this was true. It was the first home office he’d owned. He gestured toward a wall of large sliding glass doors, which, he maintained, made his office more “transparent.” He said, “I would’ve recognized the client that put Foad in jail as a high-risk client, and I would have declined to take them altogether.”

Early in his career, before moving to Durham, Kandle once worked with a twelve-year-old boy—the same age as E.R., he noted. The boy’s mother could be volatile, and, after one of her tirades at home, the boy confided to Kandle that he sometimes felt angry toward his mother and her treatment of him. At their next session, the woman appeared alone in Kandle’s office. “I’m concerned about what’s happening inside your office with my son,” Kandle still recalled her saying. “For all I know, you could be molesting him.” Her tone and expression left Kandle with little doubt what she meant. “A warning shot over the bow,” he told me.

Kandle long ago stopped seeing children from similar circumstances. When he learned of the allegation against Afshar, he assumed it was “phony,” since Afshar was “well known” and “well admired.” On the New Hampshire Psychological Association listserv he began posting his thoughts on the case. When leadership grew sensitive about this, Kandle invited anyone who was interested to email him for continued updates. The result was Kandle’s ongoing newsletter. “The whole drama created a lot of anxiety and tension and conflict for our profession.”

I asked Kandle if he was troubled at all by what might be cast, generously, as Afshar’s inattention to paperwork: the lapsed license, the absent clinical notes. Those were “irresponsible” and “careless practice,” Kandle said. They were not criminal, however. Or unheard of. Professionals in his field, as in every field, sometimes grow busy and fall behind. Perhaps it warranted a complaint to the licensing board. Whether Afshar had molested a patient was an entirely different question, Kandle said. “Those careless lapses on his part were used to augment the argument, in court, that this is an unethical, unprofessional, rogue, untrustworthy bad actor. It just defies credibility.”

The episode made Kandle sympathetic to HB 106, and initially he submitted a letter in support. “I just could not understand how allegations of this nature could be judged without any evidence whatsoever. Part of me thought it made sense to require some.” Then he read and listened to counterarguments. These, too, he found persuasive. “These things take place in private,” he said sadly. “It’s hard for anyone to know what actually happened.” If that mother, early in his career, had been determined? “My career would probably have been destroyed.” On the other hand, certainly there were abusers out there. “I don’t have any wisdom in terms of how cases like this should be handled,” he said. “That’s beyond me. I see the problems. I see the controversy.”

A case like Afshar’s appeared to stand at a vexing intersection—a heinous offense, a common lack of evidence. Are the courts equipped to accommodate all these variables?

What is the solution? A small number of models have emerged in recent years as substitutes for the criminal justice system, including civil litigation, mediation, and the restorative justice movement, but those are designed to resolve conflicts, not uncover truths. They are helpful only if a shared understanding exists that an offense occurred. I mentioned to Stephen Schulhofer that a case like Afshar’s appeared to stand at a vexing intersection—a heinous offense, a common lack of evidence. How equipped are the courts to accommodate these variables simultaneously? Schulhofer referred me to the famous line by Winston Churchill—that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. “What’s the alternative?” Then he answered his own question. “History gives us some answers. We used to have trial by ordeal, or trial by battle. We used to tie people up and throw them in the water. If they floated, that meant their soul was hollow and they were guilty. If they sank, they were innocent, and they got a Christian burial. There are many alternatives. But you can see right away that they’re even worse.” An impartial jury, a unanimous verdict, a burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt—these and other protections exist to balance competing priorities humanely. It was no surprise to Schulhofer that some cases laid those priorities bare. “We need to have a system for enforcing the law. At the same time, we don’t want to put people behind bars if there’s a chance they’re innocent. In an organized society, that’s an existential problem.”

In September 2017, after publishing my first book—which told, in part, a story of wrongful conviction—I spoke with New Hampshire Public Radio. The next morning, Foad Afshar emailed me. “It touched my heart that someone would take the time, stay dogged and be dedicated to the welfare of a wrongly convicted man,” it read. “Your work was especially poignant to me because I too was wrongly accused and convicted.” I knew of his case, but only barely, given all the controversy, on the phone I expected to hear desperation, but he sounded calm and reflective. Now I realized how long he’d had, more than a year, to adjust to an abruptly changed life, regardless of its cause. I told him I held no assumption he was innocent. It was important to me that he knew. His reply surprised me. “That’s reasonable,” he said. “I appreciate you telling me.” He recognized he couldn’t expect every stranger to believe him.

I phoned E.R.’s parents, who told me they preferred not to speak with a reporter, though not before his mother asked me if I knew of the web site for Afshar’s supporters. “It’s hard, as a parent, not to look at that,” she said. I’d reached her in a fallow period, when things had quieted for her family between court rulings, but she knew it wouldn’t last. “You feel blindsided sometimes. Things feel settled, and then all of the sudden, boom.”

After the trial verdict, Afshar hired a new defense attorney, Ted Lothstein. Lothstein hired an investigator who found and interviewed the twelve jurors from the trial. Two of the twelve, the investigator discovered, were survivors of sexual assault. Neither had mentioned this fact before trial. They’d been asked at least twice: once on a written questionnaire, again verbally during selection. One juror, a young woman, was assaulted in middle school. She had not disclosed her experience because it was “private.” Another, an older man, was assaulted by his babysitter as a boy. “I don’t see myself as a victim,” he said. “That’s not my lifestyle. Therefore, the answers that I gave were true, to my knowledge.” He’d been elected the jury foreman.

No rule prohibits a juror from serving on a trial for a crime he or she has personally endured. (Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public affairs at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, told me that, if a jury was meant to represent one’s peers, the prevalence of sexual assault was a relevant fact. “If you take away people who have had a sexual assault in their life, you certainly don’t have a jury of your peers. Because your peers have been sexually assaulted.”) A requirement is simply that each juror be “fair and impartial.” In the view of Vartanian and Cherniske, both jurors still were, some vaguely phrased queries had simply confused them. The pair withheld out of misunderstanding, not dishonesty. This carried no suggestion of bias.

Lothstein—and eventually an appellate judge—disagreed. In March 2017, a court vacated Afshar’s convictions and released him from prison. Prosecutors appealed that decision in April, another judge denied them in May. Prosecutors appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court in January 2018. In October, the court ruled against them.

Today Afshar is free, but perhaps only temporarily. Merrimack County is entitled to re-prosecute him. Five days after the state Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of Afshar’s verdict, Joe Cherniske announced the state would “not pursue a second trial at this time.” This did not exclude pursuing one in the future. In New Hampshire, the statute of limitations for aggravated felonious sexual assault against a minor expires “within 22 years of the victim’s eighteenth birthday.” The question on which the appeal succeeded was procedural. It does not address the essential matter of what happened. In this permanent uncertainty, a portion of New Hampshire residents believes Afshar guilty. A portion believes him innocent. Any further trial verdict or court ruling is likely to worsen division, not alleviate it. So is any legislative proposal.

Afshar has three children. The two eldest, who are in their mid-twenties, told me that no legal outcome could make them feel vindicated. That was the wrong word. What they hoped to feel, both told me, separately and unaware the other had said it, was relief. The eldest, Lilly, happens to be a survivor of sexual assault. “So many people are,” she said. One of her earliest memories is her father admonishing her for squashing bugs. “He would always tell us, ‘Those bugs have families. They have kids. How would you feel if someone came and crushed you?’ That’s where I learned everything I believe in.” She does not look forward to more court proceedings. “It’s so hard to feel confident and secure after what happened.” This is an easy sentiment to appreciate, and also to imagine extending to others. E.R. has finished middle school and begun high school. In a retrial, he and his family would be forced to choose whether or not to testify again.

I asked Mike Kandle to consider a terrible possibility. What if, tomorrow, another victim came forward, with a story similar to E.R.’s? What would Kandle’s reaction be?

“I’d be shocked,” Kandle said. “I’d be confused. And if it were a credible accusation, from a credible source, I’d find it heartbreaking. I have no interest in protecting sexual abusers. I work with plenty of victims of sexual abuse. I’m keenly aware of the indignities and harms of justice not being served for them. I would never support anybody where there are legitimate accusations, even if I was a friend of theirs.”

“What would there need to be, for it to be a credible claim?”

“That’s a good question,” Kandle said, and he paused to think.

*Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Massachusetts required corroboration in sexual assault cases, if an alleged victim’s testimony is “discredited or contradicted by other credible evidence.” It is actually Mississippi.

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