Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Why Don’t Rape and Sexual Assault Victims Report? A Study of How the Psycho-Social Costs of Reporting Affect a Victim’s Decision to Report

Kahn-Lang, Ariella (2008): Why Don’t Rape and Sexual Assault Victims Report? A Study of How the Psycho-Social Costs of Reporting Affect a Victim’s Decision to Report.

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Abstract

Sexual assault and rape are among the least reported crimes in the United States. This paper hypothesizes that this reflects the psycho-social costs of reporting a rape or sexual assault, which, in turn, reflect the stigma suffered by rape and sexual assault victims. These costs will be highest among those most likely to be rejected by their social and professional circles if they report their victimization, and among those for whom such rejection is likely to be most costly. Using the National Crime Victimization Surveys, I proxy these higher costs by victim’s education and income, relationship to the assailant, and various measures of the nature of attack and attacker. I find that, as hypothesized, victims with higher incomes, more years of education, and a closer relationship with the attacker are less likely to report. These results are either absent or weaker in an identical analysis of the reporting of non-sexual assaults, confirming that the relations I observe are due to the unique nature of rape and sexual assaults.

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