Why Do Women Wait So Long to Report Abuse?

Teresa Roberts
5 min readOct 9, 2023

Cultural Expectations are Better Than Laws at Controlling Human Behavior

What’s Your World View? (my photo)

If you’re wondering why it’s so hard for women to speak up, especially if it’s against a man, I’m here to remind you that institutionalized patriarchy is part of the fabric of our society, culture, religions, and government.

You can find it in the words of our forefathers as well as in the personal choices of their everyday lives.

They weren’t as enlightened or courageous as we want to believe. You can find the old patriarchal system entrenched in the laws of the land which slowly but surely are being removed locally and nationally.

But nowhere else is blatant patriarchy more apparent than in the Bible.

For centuries, our offspring were filled with this nonsense in their parochial schools, Sunday schools, churches, religious ceremonies, wedding vows, and the very laws of the land. If you want to know how I became an atheist, I can easily explain. I read the Bible.

That was all it took.

I can remember as early as 12 years old cringing when I heard my father read the verses below from the pulpit. I was never able to get a satisfying explanation for why the Bible was full of such hateful ideas. And, I will never understand how women can choose to overlook this nonsense by claiming to love a god that placed such cruel limits upon our heads. This is why women are so hesitant to speak up. This is why it’s taken hundreds of years for women to find their voice.

Let me share a few holy scriptures for your edification (there’s more where this came from, trust me) …

1 Timothy 2:11–14 (yes, we were an afterthought designed with a man in mind)

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor

Genesis 2:18 (our purpose? to help a man)

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

1 Corinthians 14:34–35 (muzzle us)

The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

Titus 2:9 (oh, and women who were slaves had a double burden to carry. We all know that the master often raped them. Even Thomas Jefferson couldn’t resist his privilege)

Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative.

Exodus 20:17 ( apparently, a woman is a man’s property)

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Of course, we are indoctrinated by our culture long before we can think for ourselves. The convenient thing about that is that most people merely accept the cultural expectations that came with the country they inherited at birth. Few ever question anything. It all just feels normal. What another culture happens to believe may seem odd but it never occurs to us that we’re viewed by others as the society with the weird world view.

Cultural expectations are far more successful at controlling human behavior than laws will ever be.

So after centuries and centuries of twisted patriarchy that’s deeply entrenched in the very fabric of our society, it’s no wonder that women are hesitant to speak out even after they’ve been raped and brutalized. Yes, even after women are violently attacked, they remain more afraid to go after their perpetrator than to merely roll over, pull up their pants, and try to move on while carrying both physical and mental scars. After all, there have long been only two kinds of women, sluts or virgins.

It used to go something like this back in the good old bad old days.

  • Girls were either virgins or sluts
  • Men could go after either one, but they preferred to marry a virgin
  • In reality, lots of virgins slept with their boyfriends, but
  • Sluts had casual sex
  • Boys were expected to sleep with whomever they could
  • If a good girl was violated, she became a bad girl until proven innocent
  • If a slut was violated she was guilty because she was a slut
  • If a girl got pregnant out of wedlock, she was shamed
  • The father of the baby was not blamed
  • Boys were told to fantasize about sluts because they offered exciting sex
  • Birth control was illegal in many states
  • Access to birth control limited
  • Sex education was almost nonexistent
  • The double standard remains deeply entrenched

With such blatant double standards where women are appointed the job of the gatekeeper and men are encouraged to break down the gate whenever possible, we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken so long to balance the two opposing cultural expectations.

We’ve made a little progress in the last 100 years.

Women finally get to vote, work, have a career, have sex if they choose, use birth control, get divorced, remarry, and even stay single for the rest of their lives if they choose. But behind these hard-won rights remains a deeply conflicting message to girls and boys, both from their fathers and mothers, preachers and priests, politicians, and friends.

The years of oppression have left a mark on our collective subconscious and with a little provocation the old ways of viewing women resurface. It’s going to take many more decades before the idea of equality is normalized and completely obliterates centuries of oppression. It’s a power struggle. Humans don’t like to give up their power.

So, if you’re wondering why women are still hesitant to speak up, perhaps it’s because your culture gave you a seat on the winning team.

Teresa is an author and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.

Teresa is an author and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.

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Teresa Roberts

Teresa is an author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. She’s also a top writer on climate change and the future.