Widely held, inaccurate beliefs about the prevalence of false reporting are present in all groups, from college students to police officers. Survivors know this, and 95% of college students choose not to report their assaults so as not to face the vitriol that many survivors experience.
The blame and distrust frequently directed at survivors is often referred to as secondary victimization because survivors experience additional harm from friends, family and systems. In a survey of survivors who reported to police departments, secondary victimization was common: 87% of survivors felt blamed for their assault after speaking with the police; 70% experienced officers who said that the survivor's dress or behavior caused the assault; and 69% experienced officers who discouraged making a report.
A separate survey of survivors who did not report to police asked them to provide reasons for not doing so. The most common reasons included uncertainty that the authorities would consider the incident serious enough, fear of retaliation by the perpetrator, fear of hostile treatment by the authorities, and not knowing how to report the incident.
When people hear about a sexual assault case, they often move to making a decision about true or false/right or wrong; when in fact, we don't have to be the ones who make that judgment. If a friend tells you that they have been sexually assaulted, provide them with support and compassion. Listen and validate their experience. Offer them the resources that are trained and confidential to help them decide what to do next. Learn about sexual assault and how to respond to a friend and keep in mind this information about sexual assault reporting.