#WhyWomenDontReport: It’s Costly
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Last summer when the star of my beloved Chicago Blackhawks, Patrick Kane, was accused of rape I was inundated on Twitter from his supporters with assertions that his accuser was just some golddigger out for fame and fortune. I responded a number of times asking for the name of a woman who got rich and famous reporting a high profile man of sexual assault; I can still hear the crickets.

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And here we are again. Of course. Women are coming forward in droves to tell their stories about Donald TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president MORE — sexual assault, sexual harassment, and just generally being entitled and handsy. Right on queue, people want to know why — if their claims are true — are they just now speaking up?

So, I asked again, using #WhyWomenDontReport — a hashtag created to share stories and show support to Trump’s victims:

Survivors, of course, know why we don’t report: we aren’t believed despite the single-digit percentage of accusations that turn out to be false. Trump supporters are proving that right now in a transparent effort to protect their candidate’s sinking reputation. Also, reporting re-victimizes us more often than it brings closure and/or justice and being sexually assaulted is very expensive. A Michigan State study determined the personal cost of each sexual assault to be, on average, $108,447.

If we can’t believe victims like Kane’s who did everything our culture shamefully asks of them — reporting to the police immediately, offering up bruises and DNA evidence, and submitting to hours and weeks of drilling by law enforcement who ostensibly are on our side, how are sexual harassment and groping victims like so many of Trump’s supposed to expect to be heard and believed?

Sexual harassment is rampant and potentially expensive. Every woman I know has at least one story about an inappropriate co-worker or a power-hungry boss who expected them to keep his advances quiet. We have acquiesced, fearing the loss of our jobs or entire careers by being blacklisted as troublemakers. Staying quiet isolates us from each other. This, as Guardian US reporter Molly Redden tweeted on Friday, puts us in the double bind of fearing we are perpetuating the problem.

“The knowledge that you're shielding your abuser or harasser…I mean it can make you feel like garbage some days. Don't you think we have pretty well-thought-out reasons not to report, if we're willing to live with that burden? #WhyWomenDontReport”

This year’s movie “Confirmation,” which details Anita Hill’s part in Justice Clarence Thomas’s nomination process, highlights the absurdity of suggestions that women report for profit and advancement. “I was afraid of retaliation,” Kerry Washington as Hill explains when asked why she didn’t come forward earlier. “My reputation is ruined.” She finally broke her silence for reasons similar to Trump’s accusers: she couldn’t be a spectator as the man who victimized her attain broader power.

The possible real, financial cost of reporting was the first entry on #WhyWomenDontReport, from its creator Elizabeth Plank: 

The financial burden varies, of course. Living wage advocacy group Fight For $15 has mobilized McDonald’s workers as “40% of women at fast food restaurants like McDonald's face on-the-job sexual harassment.” Losing a low-wage job is particularly devastating as many of us who have worked in the service industry cannot survive the gap between the last paycheck from a current job and the first paycheck from a new job — and that’s if we’re able to go straight from one to the next.

The stakes for women who have tens of thousands of student loan debt and dozens of years invested in building a career to provide them stability and independence are similarly at the mercy of their male bosses and co-workers. We gaslight ourselves and ask “Well, how bad was it really?” We have to determine if it’s worth it financially to speak up. Can we make partner — a promotion worth hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars over a lifetime — if we make a stink about the late night hand on the knee or repeated requests for after hours drinks?

This myth that victims of sexual misconduct of all kinds at the hands of powerful men tell their stories for profit cascades throughout our culture to further silence us. That there are no rags to riches stories about accusers hasn’t shut down the myth; we can only do that by supporting survivors and ending the practice of silencing them through cries of “golddigger!”

Katie Klabusich is a contributing writer for The Establishment and host of The Katie Speak Show on Netroots Radio. Her work can also be found at Rolling Stone, Truthout, The Toast, and Bitch Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @Katie_Speak.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.