Why women hesitate to report sexual misconduct

The news has been filled with stories of prominent men accused of sexual misconduct -- many of the alleged misdeeds g...

Posted: Jan 17, 2018 12:44 PM
Updated: Jan 17, 2018 12:44 PM

The news has been filled with stories of prominent men accused of sexual misconduct -- many of the alleged misdeeds going back decades.

Though the circumstances are different in each case, the same question keeps coming up: Why did the accusers wait so long to come forward?

Some who came forward explained their reasons for waiting. In other cases, the treatment accusers endured after coming forward made their reasons apparent. Here are a few examples:

Their names are dragged through the mud

While examples abound of accusers' credibility coming under question, Italian actress and filmmaker Asia Argento's case was particularly extreme.

She was disparaged in the Italian press after the New Yorker published her sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein has repeatedly denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.

One opinion writer called her account "prostitution, not rape." When she gave a TV interview about the accusations, another writer tweeted that Argento was "trying to justify high-class prostitution." In a radio interview, the editor-in-chief of right-wing publication Libero said the encounter was the price of becoming a great actress, and that it must have been consensual.

The treatment led her to flee Italy for a few weeks, she said. Italians "just don't get it," she told The Guardian.

"We have been so lobotomized by the objectification of women that we, as women, don't even know that we are being harassed and treated the wrong way," she said.

Their motives are questioned

When the Washington Post published accounts from four women who said Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore pursued them as teenagers, Moore's supporters said they found the timing "suspect." Moore has denied the allegations.

The Senate race was just weeks away, leading many, including Moore's wife, to accuse the women of conspiring with the "liberal press" to get "involved" with the race.

The Washington Post said none of the women approached the paper with the story. On the contrary, the paper approached the women after receiving a tip and asked them to come forward.

They fear professional consequences

Numerous Weinstein accusers said they had long stayed quiet for fear of the consequences of challenging a man who held their career in his hands.

In her account of Weinstein's alleged harassment, actress Gwyneth Paltrow said she feared the repercussions for her career if she were to speak out. After her then-boyfriend, Brad Pitt, confronted Weinstein, the Miramax producer warned her not to tell anyone else, she told The New York Times.

"I thought he was going to fire me," she said.

Five women told CNN that political reporter Mark Halperin sexually harassed them while he was at ABC News. None of them reported the incidents. Some of the women said they did not report Halperin's behavior to management because they feared retribution, given the power Halperin had at ABC and in the industry.

Halperin acknowledged pursuing relationships with women he worked with and apologized for his actions.

They blame themselves

American gymnast Simone Biles explained the guilt victims carry around after being violated. The Olympic champion said she was sexually abused by former USA gymnastics team doctor Larry Nasser, who admitted to taking advantage of young female athletes in his care. He pleaded guilty in November to criminal sexual conduct and faces sentencing this week.

Before speaking up, Biles she said she grappled with whether she could have done something to prevent what happened, even though she did nothing to cause it.

"For far too long I've asked myself 'Was I too naive? Was it my fault?'" she said Monday.

"I now know the answer to those questions. No. No. It was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others."

They worry that their past will be used against them

One of Moore's accusers told the Washington Post that she didn't come forward sooner because she worried that her background, which included three divorces and financial troubles, would undermine her credibility.

"There is no one here that doesn't know that I'm not an angel," Leigh Corfman said, referring to her home town of Gadsden, Alabama.

Corfman has since filed a defamation lawsuit against Moore and his campaign for calling her allegations "politically motivated" and "malicious."

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