Home Beauty ‘Why is she only speaking up now?’: 6 important reasons why women don’t go public against their abusers

‘Why is she only speaking up now?’: 6 important reasons why women don’t go public against their abusers

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‘Why is she only speaking up now?’: 6 important reasons why women don’t go public against their abusers

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This article references rape, domestic abuse, and sex trafficking.

Last night (16 November), news broke that the singer Cassie has filed a major lawsuit against Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, the founder of Bad Boy Records. In a 35-page filing, Cassie Ventura alleges that Combs trapped her in a “cycle of abuse, violence, and sex trafficking” over the course of their decade-long relationship. A representative for Combs described the allegations as “offensive and outrageous”, adding that they came after Cassie demanded $30m from the mogul.

As in many high-profile cases of abuse allegations, some have taken to social media to ask, ‘Why now?’ While it’s not possible to speculate on an active case, it’s worth considering how this online rhetoric harms potential survivors of domestic abuse more generally.

In the UK, police receive a domestic abuse-related call every 30 seconds, which sounds like a lot, right? However, estimates show that less than 24% of domestic abuse crime is reported to the police (via Refuge). This paints an extremely worrying picture of the structural support pathways open to victims of domestic abuse (84% of whom are female). 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime, but in a society that constantly scrutinises victims, she has limited resources to report or speak up about it.

If you’re reading this, you might feel genuinely confused about why victims don’t name and shame abusive partners. So here are six (non-comprehensive) reasons why that isn’t always possible:

1. It’s dangerous

In many domestic abuse cases, the most dangerous time for the victim is when they choose to leave. This may go some way to explaining why it takes, on average, seven attempts before a woman is able to leave their abuser for good. When victims decide to leave – or speak out about – their abusive partners, they threaten the abuser’s power and ability to control them. In 2018, 41% of women killed by a male partner/former partner in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had separated or taken steps to separate from them (Femicide Census).

2. It’s legally fraught

Another common question that victims face is, ‘Why didn’t you just report it to the police?’ And while the police should take all victims seriously, many women have lost trust in the police following reports of institutional misogyny and the high-profile arrests of Wayne Couzens and David Carrick.

And if a woman does report domestic abuse to the police, the process towards a trial and conviction is lengthy – and potentially re-traumatising.

If children are involved, the victim may also have to navigate the family courts, which many feminist campaigners argue can be used by perpetrators to continue exerting a pattern of coercive control over their ex-partners.

Even if the victim decides not to report the abuser to the police, they might still face legal repercussions if they choose to talk about their experience publicly. The abuser might take a leaf out of several high-profile celebrity civil cases and choose to sue their ex-partner for defamation or infringement of their privacy, further continuing the abuse.

3. It’s traumatic

Domestic abuse is inherently traumatic, meaning that some victims may experience post-traumatic stress disorder. Women who experience domestic abuse are twice as likely to experience depression, and it’s estimated that around three women a week die by suicide as a result of domestic abuse (per Refuge).

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