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From the Pews | Supporting Survivors of Sexual Assault

A new hashtag – #whyididntreport – has arisen following the distrust and questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford received after she came forward with allegations of attempted rape in high school by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The stories of men and women are flooding social media much like the stories we heard in the #metoo movement.

These stories add another important element to this movement: many times, men and women don’t report because they have too much to risk and too much to lose.

The stories shared in #whyididntreport contradict the belief that a victim has something to gain when coming out against a public figure.

In reality, the victim often experiences death threats, threats to his or her family, and is forced into hiding after sharing their stories publicly.

What this second movement reveals is that not only do sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape and sexual abuse continue to plague our society, but also our society and indeed our political leaders still don’t know what to do with stories of sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and sexual abuse.

Rather than rushing to the aid of the victim, a second helping of abuse often is heaped upon the victim when sharing his or her story. This secondary abuse occurs in threats, doubt and extreme questioning.

Even though Ford agreed to testify and took a polygraph that revealed she was not lying, some Republicans are trying to submit her and the second accuser who has arisen against Kavanaugh to a series of questioning with outside expert counsel.

There is also concern because no female Republicans are serving on the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, a problem that was met with the suggestion to have senators’ aides allowed to question Ford.

The #whyididntreport isn’t the only response to form in support of Ford and Kavanaugh’s other accuser. On Monday, Sept. 24, women across the country dressed in black walked out of their workplaces at 1 p.m.

Again and again, we’ve heard the statistics:

Now as we hear the stories that turn these statistics into real humans with real faces, it’s time to listen. These victims should be given a chance to share their stories without denigrating or shaming them.

My own stories of #whyIdidntreport are similar to so many of the ones I’ve read.

I didn’t report because experiencing sexual harassment and not sexual assault made me feel like I was one of the lucky ones.

I didn’t report because as a young female pastor, I already felt like I had to work twice as hard to earn a spot at the table and those who harassed me held powerful positions and powerful influence in our denomination.

I didn’t report because I was promised that he “would look after me.”

I didn’t report because there was never a safe place or an open ear to share my story.

Maybe one day I will be as brave as Christine Blasey Ford.

Merianna Harrelson

Merianna Harrelson is pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in West Columbia, South Carolina, editor-in-chief of Harrelson Press Publishing, and an EthicsDaily.com / Baptist Center for Ethics board member.