Sexual assault survivors often don’t press charges against their perpetrators. Here’s why.

WBTV delved into the question following an investigation into a repeat offender in Charlotte.
A local nonprofit founder said the judicial system often forces a survivor to relive their trauma, with no guarantee of justice.
Published: Nov. 13, 2022 at 11:25 AM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - After Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police arrested and charged Octavis Wilson with kidnapping and rape last Saturday night, WBTV delved into his criminal past and learned why some of his victims did not move forward with legal action.

Court records show although he has had multiple sexual assault and rape charges in the last two years, Wilson was only briefly held in the Mecklenburg County jail each time before being released.

Crystal Emerick, who created ‘Brave Step,’ a Concord-based nonprofit that empowers survivors of sexual violence, said while only 40 percent of survivors report the crime, even less fight their perpetrator in the courtroom.

“Maybe five [percent]. Let’s just stretch it to say 5 to 10 [percent] sought legal reparations and the majority of them never do,” she said.

“While it could be rewarding, it could also be retraumatizing,” she went on.

Emerick explained the judicial system often forces a survivor to relive their trauma, with no guarantee they will get justice.

“It’s hard to endure the questioning from the police and the DA’s office and eventually the courtroom...until you’re well enough to withstand that,” she said. “Even the people who have been doing the work for 10 or more years might not be able to withstand that kind of pressure and questioning.”

In Wilson’s case, court documents show his first victim did not want to move forward with legal action because Wilson “has mental health issues” and “was off his medication” at the time.

“They go back into the world and do the same repetitive acts over and over, and it’s so hard,” Emerick said.

Although there’s no perfect fix, Emerick said she works with survivors every day to move towards that - one brave step at a time.

After a judge reduced Wilson’s $2 million bond to $50,000 Tuesday, WBTV also spoke with CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings to find out why this is another pattern we’ve seen with violent criminals.

Related: “We’re going to help you out with that”: Judge reduces bond of suspect in sexual assault