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Opinion

Readers React: Women explain why sexual assaults go unreported

Donald Trump
Protesters gather in front of the Supreme Court on Sept. 24 to protest the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh in light of a sexual assault allegation against him.
(Carolyn Kaster / AP)

To the editor: I was a sex crimes prosecutor early in my career. In an investigation, I would interview the victim’s parents, siblings, friends and co-workers. One of my standard questions, posed at the end of the witness interview, was, “Has this happened to you or anyone else you know?”

Often there would be a flood of tears, and the witness would announce that he or she had been abused long ago but had not told anyone.

I recall a case in which I prosecuted a clean-cut, preppy-sweatered-male computer expert who frequented computer labs and befriended and sexually assaulted teenage and young adult males. I interviewed one of the teenage victim’s fathers, who chillingly told me that it wasn’t a big deal because, “It happened to me when I was in junior high and I am just fine.” The father also explained he did not want his son to testify and be labeled.

The son testified and the offender was convicted.

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To say that actual victims report immediately is not borne out by the evidence. But to know this one would have to do his homework.

Julie A. Werner-Simon, Santa Monica

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To the editor: When I was a student at Newport Harbor High School, a male teacher followed me into the sports equipment room, put his arms around me and started aggressively kissing me. I was exceedingly fortunate that his assault went no further than that and I was able to escape that room shaken but otherwise unharmed.

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Like most sexual assault victims, I did not report this event nor even tell my friends about it. I was young enough to have felt that in some way, I must have encouraged his advances and it was not until I was more mature that I recognized that this was the action of a predator.

I can tell you what I was wearing, where I was standing in the room and what was said. These details are seared into my brain. Beyond the event itself, I have no other recollections of that day or even what year it was.

President Trump has questioned the veracity of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh based on the absence of a police report. I cannot speak to the truth of her description of the attack, but I can absolutely correlate her experience with my own regarding our mutual lack of a timely police report and the dimming of additional memories with the passage of time.

My own memories of the actual event remain as clear as the day it occurred.

Susan Skinner, Newport Beach

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I don’t know whether my rapist was ever prosecuted. But if he ever ran for public office, I certainly would raise my voice, for the sake of all of us.
Bonnie Joy Salhany, Eagle Rock

To the editor: At age 14, I was brutally attacked and raped by a stranger.

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At the hospital, the police were informed. Relatively considerate officers interviewed me, but imagine my teenage discomfort. Next came frightening mug shots, one-way-glass suspect identifications and returning to school as “the girl who was raped.”

My fear of a vengeful return by my attacker was so strong that we soon moved to California.

People who wonder why rape is under-reported fail to understand how often perpetrators undergo less misery than their victims. Having carried my own burden of pain and shame for 57 years, I am convinced that only the absolute truth of her story could give Ford the confidence to face the withering exercise ahead.

I don’t know whether my rapist was ever prosecuted. But if he ever ran for public office, I certainly would raise my voice, for the sake of all of us.

Bonnie Joy Salhany, Eagle Rock

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To the editor: Both Ford and Kavanaugh may be telling the truth. If the event took place as Ford describes it, Kavanaugh might indeed have no recollection of it because of something called “alcohol amnesia.”

Dr. Aaron White of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has said about alcohol amnesia: “It can be quite difficult for an outside observer to tell if someone is in a blackout. The person could seem aware and articulate, but without any memory being recorded.”

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A memory that is inconsistent with one’s self-concept is very likely to be repressed.

Harry Triandis, Carlsbad

The writer is a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Illinois.

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To the editor: To get to my elementary school, I had to take public transportation to a square in the center of Athens, Greece, and then the school bus to the suburban campus.

One day, when the school bus was late, I was giving a hard time to a classmate. His father had brought him to the square. I did not know the father beforehand, but he got upset and slapped me hard in the face (left cheek) without saying a word.

I remember which kid it was, where it was, what happened, and that we were in 5th or 6th grade. It occurred about 60 years ago. While the exact year escapes me, I remember clearly the key facts and persons for this traumatic event.

I never informed the Athens police. It is disingenuous for Republican senators to claim that memories fade and cannot be trusted or that nothing happened if no police report exists.

D.A. Papanastassiou, San Marino

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