To be a victim of any crime is a very intimidating experience. In a split second, everything you held to be true needs to be questioned and your sense of trust and security is totally demolished. It doesn’t matter what the crime is – it leaves you feeling vulnerable long afterwards.

Some crimes are reported to the authorities more often than others. If someone has stolen from you or caused damage to your property, insurance companies will often ask for a crime reference number which uniquely identifies your report and ensures that all details are accurate. You may ask why would someone not report such an event, but the fear of repeat attacks or repercussions has proved in the past to be a strong motivator when it comes to making someone stay quiet.

The latest Crime Survey for England and Wales found that around two in ten adults find themselves experiencing crime in any given year but the likelihood of certain crimes is higher than others. You are much more likely to be the victim of a lower harm offence such as fraud than you are of say robbery or homicide. The rates are slightly lower when consulting the Northern Ireland Crime Survey as the risk of becoming a victim of crime here is 8.9 per cent whereas it is almost double that over in Great Britain.

When respondents were asked why they would not report a crime, the more common reasons were due to a belief that the police would not do anything or that their complaint was too trivial to be worrying about. The crime survey shows also that about a quarter of those who did not report believed it to be a “private matter” or that they would “deal with the matter themselves” rather than make an official complaint.

As concerning as that may be, it is unfortunately quite understandable. In the past year here, reported sexual offences rose by just under 10 per cent. That’s a pretty big jump but considering that one in five women aged between sixteen and 60 has experienced some form of sexual violence in their adulthood, it seems clear that there are many more who are choosing to see it as a “private matter” rather than seeking justice through any legal route. It is estimated that only about 15 per cent of those who experience such things choose to report it to the police.

If you look at how sexual assault and rape trials are conducted and the conviction rates for them, it’s sadly an unsurprising statistic.

As has been seen recently in the Belfast trial, intense speculation is rife once the public hear of a case going to trial, and that holds true as to whether the accused are well known or not. Gossip spreads like currency no matter how many reporting restrictions are in place. The one who is making the complaint still has to go out in public and their name will forever be whispered about in corners.

They have to release their most personal details into a room of strangers, relive the moment when the horrific assault took place. Some report that the whole system of asking for detailed information leaves them feeling as violated as they had been by their attacker. Everything about their lives is picked apart and analysed, even aspects that don’t appear to be readily relevant to the case. Alcohol consumption, sexual history, any previous contact with the accused, internet activity, text messages, fashion choices, general personality: it’s all fair game to the defence team.

For some reason, there is this belief that many allegations of rape or sexual assault are maliciously made up, but the Ministry of Justice estimates that only around three per cent of cases fall into this category and that they are “serious by rare.” Is it so hard to believe that so many women and around four per cent of men are actually having being so badly treated by others in society? We don’t assume someone who reports a burglary has stashed their valuables in a friend’s attic and made up a jolly little story, so why do so many assume that to be the case when it comes to sexual assault?

When it comes down to the matter, a lot of cases rest on very little indisputable evidence so it ends up as one word against the other. When it’s someone who has already had their life sullied against another who has the opportunity to avoid it completely, there’s little to guess on where the confidence and bravado is going to lie.

There may be some thought on matters that are grey areas but that is becoming harder to make justifiable. We all know what consent is and is not and it all really boils down to one simple rule: don’t put yourself into someone else’s personal space unless they ask you to.

It’s a matter that is so often in the headlines but the events concerning newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh have brought the age-old conversation to the fore once again. Upon his nomination, a woman he went to high school with alleged that he attempted to rape her all those decades ago. He denies it but she is adamant that it happened. Christine Ford said that she was on the way to the bathroom while at a small party when Kavanaugh and his friend pushed her into a bedroom. She has recounted what happened at Senate hearings.

Ford never told anyone at the time. She removed herself from the social circles she had once enjoyed being a member of and did her best to fly under the radar; keeping her head down and being easily forgotten.

Despite the hearings, Kavanaugh has been confirmed to the Supreme Court, and there could yet be an FBI investigation into the allegations.

The huge lack of understanding about why a person may not report an assault immediately after it happens or indeed at all causes huge issues when it comes to those who do choose to speak out as public perception is so often against them. There is no stereotype of who can become a victim of such crime and so assumptions cannot be made. The only thing that is certain is that it is something that should not have a place in a civilised society such as ours but unfortunately happens far too often.