While nearly everyone calls the police when their car is stolen, there is another crime committed that more than half of the victims never report. A follow up now to a story we brought you yesterday. The response was overwhelming when we told you just how many victims are raped and never report it to police. "I absolutely understand why it's under reported," says rape survivor Lorin Leatherwood.
While many rape victims turn to places such as the Houston Area Women's Center, according to the Department of Justice, 65% of victims who are sexually assaulted never report the crime. "I was so afraid that someone was going to judge me or someone was going to blame me or think this was my fault," explains Leatherwood. The now 26-year-old was just 15-years-old on a family river rafting vacation when she was attacked. "The last thing I remember is this guy holding me down in my (river rafting) tube and pouring beer all over my face and the next thing I know I've woken up under water and struggling to breathe and choking on all the water I've swallowed and this guy is raping me," explains Leatherwood who eventually broke free. "I was running down the river as fast as I could and I fell and I heard laughing and I turned around and the guy who had raped me and his friend, who was another female, were pointing at me and laughing," she describes.
Ashamed and embarrassed, she initially said the rape didn't happen but that evening she was taken to the hospital and the rape was reported to police. "Until we get to the day where people can talk about rape and people can blame the perpetrator and not the victim, then people aren't going to be able to come forward," Leatherwood says.
Leatherwood and law enforcement are urging you to help change that. "People are very violated by rape because of the nature of that crime they are very embarrassed by it but they don't need to be embarrassed because it was a crime. It wasn't anything they did wrong that caused that to happen," explains Lt. Ruben Diaz with the Harris County Sheriff's Office.
If you are a victim of sexual assault there are legal limits on when you can report it but it's never too late for counseling. "There is help available. It doesn't matter if this happened last night, the day before yesterday or 20 years ago," says Frida Villalobos with the Houston Area Women's Center
Leatherwood says without counseling she fell into a deep depression. "It (counseling) helped me become a confident person again and find my voice and learn that it wasn't my fault and I wasn't alone. It was like I lived in this nightmare, replaying it over and over in my head," Leatherwood explains.
You can contact the Houston Area Women's Center Sexual Assault hotline at 713-528-7273. Leatherwood's rapist, by the way, served time in prison and has to register as a sex offender for life. The average rapist has six victims.
So many sexual assaults go unreported because victim's fear they won't be believed and fear retaliation. "More than 70% of the rapes are by someone they know. So they know this person. They can see them on the street. It might be a relative. It might be their boyfriend, their husband. So it's not a stranger and they might fear for their lives," explains Villalobos.
One woman wrote to me on Facebook "I never pressed charges. There wasn't any evidence to prove it". Another Facebook friend says "being raped made me mad and angry at the world. I didn't report it because I was scared".
"Why would anyone report it?" a Fox 26 viewer asked me. She told me "I was 13 years old. Only people that believed me were my parents. They refuse to talk about it to this day. A well to do family, with a "wayward" daughter. She must have consented." Another Facebook friend told me she didn't think anything could be done because her rapist was her husband who was so abusive he knocked six teeth from her mouth.
"How could I be so trusting of someone who I thought I knew but I obviously didn't know?" asks Angela Mitchell Hudson. Hudson says at age 10 her daughter became a sexual target by her, then, husband. "He actually tried to videotape her taking a shower". Hudson says then last summer her now teenaged daughter was sexually assaulted by a family friend. "There are times that she says she's so depressed she wishes she could kill herself," Hudson says.
You may remember this. Karate Coach Jimmy Walker was arrested a couple months ago and charged with sexually assaulting Hudson's 15-year old daughter. Hudson says fear of retaliation after rape is very real and not only inflicts the victim. "That's the same fear I had at first too. He knows where I live," says Hudson but she reported the alleged rape to police. The case is pending in court. In all of the messages I received after the initial report one was from a male who was molested as a child. Nearly everyone wanted to remain anonymous but they all contacted me for the same reason. They want more victim's to report being raped. The sexual assault survivors say it's important to lend support and let other know they are not alone and should not feel shame for someone else's crime.