Abstract: #Butnothingwasdone: Perceived Barriers to Reporting Sexual Assault in #Metoo Times (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

#Butnothingwasdone: Perceived Barriers to Reporting Sexual Assault in #Metoo Times

Friday, January 17, 2020
Liberty Ballroom J, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Sarah Robinson, LMSW, Doctoral Student, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
December Maxwell, MSW, Doctoral student, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Background: In the United States, one in three women will have experienced some type of sexual violence in their lifetime. The recent accusations against the newest Supreme Court nominee and the questioning of why the victim didn’t come forward before has brought a wave of voices sharing why they never reported their sexual assault. A hashtag movement, #whyididntreport was started wherein people began sharing their stories of sexual violence and the reasons they didn’t report. Even though research investigating barriers to reporting sexual violence exists, such open, voluntary accounts have not existed before nor have been studied. The research question guiding this study is “what are the perceived barriers for survivors of sexual assault in the current political climate to reporting their assaults?” The purpose of this study is to understand perceived barriers to reporting sexual assault in the current political climate. Methods: This study followed the methodological guidelines set forth by Caplan and Purser (2017) regarding obtaining data from Reddit and extraction criteria. In this qualitative thematic analysis, two authors analyzed 855 comments using atlas.ti (v.8.1) within seven r/TwoXChromosomes (a SubReddit dedicated to women) threads discussing #whyididntreport. Results: Four themes emerged as a result of the qualitative thematic analysis. The first theme was that many survivors did not realize their experiences were instances of sexual violence. The survivors explained that increased awareness in the media surrounding sexual violence and education related to defining sexual violence gave them the knowledge to identify their experiences. The second theme described the survivor’s fear over the fallout of reporting their experience. Many survivors expressed fear that their families, friends, or employers would find out. Other expressed fear of future violence from the perpetrator if they reported the incident to the police. The third theme contained narratives describing their experiences reporting the incident and then explaining that nothing was done with their report. Finally, the fourth theme described comments from survivors who expressed feelings of apathy when it came to filing a report. Many survivors felt there was no point to reporting their assault because the culture surrounding sexual violence often blames the victim rather than the perpetrator. Conclusion and Implications: These findings indicate that even with more readily available knowledge about sexual assault, understanding of consent is still lacking. In addition, the current political climate is adding to fear of consequences when reporting sexual assaults. The implications of these findings for social workers indicate the necessity of social worker’s role not only in reporting and clinical work, but also in advocacy and policy work relating to sexual assault.