“So many years past being raped, I tell myself what happened is 'in the past.' This is only partly true. In too many ways, the past is still with me. The past is written on my body. I carry it every single day. The past sometimes feels like it might kill me. It is a very heavy burden.”
These words from Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxanne Gay are more or less the exact words a victim of sexual assault told me when she confided in me about her rape issue. Unfortunately, that was the second time she had been raped, after a friend talked her out of killing herself years ago when she was raped the first time.
In recent years, sexual assault against women has been judiciously studied and not only have these studies found varying rates of prevalence of sexual assault, but have discussed that sexual assault is one of the most underreported amongst violent crimes. This is quite surprising, considering the rate of recurrence. These studies have shown that demographic characteristics such as gender, age and education, as well as the offender-victim relationship, play a significant role in the reporting of sexual assault by victims.
Specifically, in Ghana, where sexual assault has received very limited research attention, the few studies have focused either on minors or broadly on violence against women. In a case of examining the causes of domestic violence in Ghana, it was observed that the educational level of women significantly foretells the level of marital violence they will experience.
Most women disclose their assault experiences to informal sources instead of reporting to the police. Many reasons can be given to explain this pattern of victim behaviour; however, the most reasonable explanation is that the victim is most likely to receive reassuring feedback when disclosing sexual assault experiences to informal sources than when reporting to the police. Further, victims' desire to disclose abuse to casual or familiar sources other than the formal agencies may also be due to the officials' attitudes toward the investigation of the incident. Officials’ attitudes toward rape investigations in Ghana redirect the clichéd beliefs that Ghanaians in general hold regarding rape and victims of rape.
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