The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault applauds the courageous victims of sexual assault who come forward to report the crime. Victim-blaming is a common defense tactic, viagra and the risk is greater when the case involves a famous or powerful person: This has been the experience of Nafissatou Diallo, store the Sofitel housekeeper who has accused former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her in his hotel room last May.
In this highly polarizing case, healing both Mr. Strauss-Kahn and Ms. Diallo have been tried and “convicted,” in a sense, by the international press. While the outcome of this high-profile case is in limbo, and we may never know the full details of what happened behind closed doors, here is what we do know about sexual assaults:
We know that victim blaming is practiced widely in our culture. While celebrity rape cases grab the headlines, many sexual violence crimes treat the victim as “suspect” because he/she dressed provocatively, drank alcohol or used drugs, engaged in some form of consensual sex prior to the attack, or did not put up a struggle. Defense attorneys routinely attack the credibility of a sexual assault victim by digging up any incriminating details from his/her past. This practice has a chilling effect on survivors. Victims of sexual violence are deeply ashamed, humiliated and fearful of scrutiny of their private life. Many are afraid to report the crime for fear of being “put on trial.”
We know immigrant women are more vulnerable and at greater risk for victimization and exploitation by individuals in a position of power or authority, due to factors such immigration status, isolation, cultural and language barriers, as well as fear of, and uncertainty of seeking help from the police.
We know sexual assaults are crimes of violence and power, not of passion. The attacker’s motivation is to humiliate, debase and control the victim. Perpetrators often select victims whom they perceive as vulnerable or whom they have power over. In a workplace setting, the victim may not report the crime for fear of retaliation, fear of being blamed for the attack or fear losing her/his job.
We know there is no “normal way” to react to a sexual assault. Reactions vary significantly, and run the gamut from anger, withdrawal, hysteria, numbness and apathy. Some victims cope by resuming normal activities, such as going back to work, shopping, or even returning to the setting where they met their assailant.
We know false accusations are extremely rare. Victims of trauma commonly experience shock, numbing, and dissociation as well as effects on memory of details. As a result, it is not uncommon for a victim’s statement to contain inconsistencies and/or untrue statements. This, however, should not be confused with a false allegation. According to a study by the American Prosecutors Research Institute, false rape allegations account for 2 – 8% of all reported rapes.
We know sexual assault is a public health crisis in the United States. One in six American women– and one in 33 men – has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Until we accept the prevalence, nature and scope of sexual violence, and stop placing blame on victims, sexual assault will remain the most underreported crime in the nation.
 Lonsway, Kimberly A., Joanne Archambault, and David Lisak. 2009 False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault. The Voice 3(1):1-11
 National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998