First of all, it’s incredibly brave of them to come forward, and we as a community should start by believing them. It’s very difficult for most people to report sexual assault, which is why most sexual assaults go unreported. Many fear that they won’t be believed, or that what happened was somehow their fault. Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Never.
Sadly, these common fears were realized as Kennedy’s defense attorneys accused the women of lying, citing their delay in reporting and their continued interaction with Kennedy after the assaults. What they say they experienced is all too common—being sexually assaulted by someone whom they knew and trusted. Now is the time to stand with these women as they fight for justice.
We applaud the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for charging Kennedy with criminal sexual assault. By working to hold him accountable, the prosecutor’s office is sending a message that the victims’ testimony is credible and important to the case.
Not reporting a sexual assault right away is very common. It’s very normal after being assaulted by an acquaintance to continue to interact with them and, as one of the young women said, “pretend that things were OK, even though they were not.” The victims’ testimony underlines their own disbelief that a friend had done this to them. From the Chicago Tribune:
"I honestly did not know what to think. I was extremely frightened and flustered," the 19-year-old testified in a calm voice. "I started cleaning (the kitchen) in a panic. I was pacing back and forth."
You can take action to support survivors of sexual assault.
Learn more about the issue: Check out the Start by Believing campaign from End Violence Against Women International. This rich multimedia campaign is a great place to start.
Familiarize yourself with local resources: Chicago and Illinois have strong communities who are working to end sexual violence.
Connect with our allies, including Rape Victim Advocates.
Learn the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline number or keep it posted where you can find it: 888-293-2080
Outside of Chicago? Use the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s map to find your local rape crisis center.
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