The pressure for victims to remain muzzled
Beyond the official and unofficial cover ups of sexual assaults, there is the harsh fact that 2 out of 3 victims will choose not to report. Those choosing not to report have cited some of the following reasons: feared retaliation, belief that it is a personal matter, belief that authorities would not help, belief that the attack is not important enough, did not want the perpetrator to be punished, etc.
More than these though, there is something more. There is something about the nature of sex crimes that separate them from other violent crimes or property offenses. There is a violation of trust that is more severe. 3 out of 4 sex crimes are committed by someone known to the victims. People known are generally people trusted.
Reliance on one another, working together, and not harming each other has provided us an evolutionary benefit. This idea of reciprocal altruism was introduced by sociobiologist, Robert Trivers in 1971. Paradoxically there is also a benefit to being cautious and fearful. According to Robert Kurzban, an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, “The explanation for the emotion of fear, then, lies in the fitness benefits of avoiding being killed by enemies or predators and such like.” This supports the idea that in the context of young women on campuses, there is a benefit in finding a suitable mating partner, while at the same time, there is a benefit in avoiding predation. Tension exists between the two opposing forces. To ease that tension, the choice has to be made between pursuing beneficial friendships or fleeing from potential danger. As humans, sometimes we choose wrong.
Human sexuality is too complicated to address adequately in this article, but for our purposes, it must be noted that homos sapiens engage in sexual activity beyond that which is necessary for reproduction. A human female does not have to be in estrus to be receptive. There is a process of attraction, acquaintance, arousal, and finally behavior. Although the sexual ritual can vary from individual, in our culture it is dictated that the participants be willing. It is a primitive game of pursuit and capture that is made complex because of our ability to reason and our choice to control the oldest parts of our nature: anger, fear, lust, and desire. There is an evolutionary benefit to the joining of male and females. Without the ancient dance, we would be scarce.
In the case of sexual assault, the devastation is so great because the victims have either retracted their permission or never consented in the first place. It is a violation of the highest order, at the deepest level. The damage is so profound that most victims will take years to recover. Victims feel shame because they likely knew their attacker and may have even been attracted to the person and fulfilled the first requirement toward a consensual enjoyment. This initial shallow intimacy, later betrayed, causes the victim to question their judgement and whether there was a crime at all. While the early stages of the ancient games are played out in public displays of intimacy, it is difficult for victims to bring any secret violations into the light of scrutiny and dissection.
The violation of rape victims begins with the breaking of trust from the attacker. The damage continues during the actual physical torment. This alone is enough to demand silence from the abused. Worse still, if they choose to report, they face continued violations and assaults by medical staff, police investigators, prosecuting attorneys, defending lawyers, the justice system, and family.
Consensual sexual behavior is a very private affair of the most intimate type. Polite, public conversations do not usually involve discussions of sexual habits, preferences, fetishes, etc. In effect, all societies benefit from the conjoining of it’s members in sexual behaviors, for without such consensual acts, societies would, in a generation become extinct. In other words, regarding sex, it is self-evident that a lot of humans are having sex, yet we are not prepared to discuss it openly in any relevant context. This lack of relevant discourse regarding consensual human sexual behaviors, logically demands that sexual behaviors where consent is absent, will also fail to be discussed with any relevancy.