Sexual Assault: Why survivors wait to report

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Sexual assault continues to dominate the headlines as the #MeToo movement grows, but for years, thousands of victims of sexual assault sat silently.

Now, thanks in part to the movement, local victims are gaining confidence and coming forward with their stories.

“They fear backlash, they fear the criminal justice system,” Rosemary Brewer, executive director of the Oregon Crime Victims Law Center, explained. “In society, there is a stigma associated with sexual assault and victims are reluctant to come forward because they don't want everyone to know."

Wednesday, KATU's news partners at Willamette Week shed light on an alleged assault that happened nearly 6 years ago.

Nigel Jaquiss reported that story. He spoke to KATU's Steve Dunn and Deb Knapp about the story. Watch the interview below:

Brewer is not connected to those allegations, but she works with victims regularly. She said victims are usually reluctant to report because of what follows. Everything from medical records, education and life history becomes part of the investigation.

“When a sexual assault victim comes forward and report and the case goes forward, their lives are basically opened up,” Brewer said. “That's a huge invasion of privacy."

That alone is enough to stop women from speaking up, Brewer said.

“For someone who has just gone through this terrible trauma and is still processing, it can be really hard to overcome,” Brewer said.

The #MeToo movement is helping more women feel as though it's OK to come forward.

"These cases are out there in the news and its having an affect," she said. "Now there are people coming forward saying, 'This isn't my fault. This happened to me, but this isn't my fault, or something I did,' and think that's empowering."

If ever you yourself are ever a victim of sex assault, there are a few things you should do:

First, get to safety.

Then, as difficult as it may be, don't shower or wash your hands. Head straight to a doctor or hospital for a rape kit, even if you are not ready to press charges. It's important to get what you can, so if down the road, you change your mind, you have evidence already documented.

You should also get tested by your doctor STD’s.

Finally, and most importantly, find someone to talk to. Whether it be family, friends or a counselor a support system is key to working through a traumatic experience such as sexual assault.

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