The Accusations of 'Dozens' of Women Against One Man Shows the Reality of Reporting Sexual Assault

October 27th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

Dozens of women have accused a college student of sexual assault after the first accuser stepped forward, and it reveals the harsh reality of reporting this type of crime.

University of Wisconsin-Madison student Alec Cook faces 15 counts of sexual assault, according to local news station KSAT. However CBS News reports that he's expected to face up to 34 counts of sexual assault.

Investigators said that dozens of women came forward with accusations about Cook after the the first woman told her story. The first accuser, a 20-year-old woman said that Cook allegedly assaulted her for hours and choked her.

Then second accuser came forward because of the first.

"I saw the news story and was empowered by another girl being able to tell what happened to her, that I thought I could now finally tell," the second accuser told police, according to KSAT.

From there, authorities said the accusations continued to roll in.

Women face huge obstacles in reporting sexual assault.

Women who report sexual assault often face intense scrutiny from investigators and the public. As ATTN: previously reported, a Department of Justice report found that police officers in Baltimore made disparaging comments about women reporting sexual assault and were hesitant to believe them.

There is also a pervasive cultural bias against women who accuse — especially high powered — men of sexual assault, and women are often accused of lying about rape and sexual assault allegations for attention or money, as is pointed out in this Matt Bors comic.

However, it's not uncommon for women to step forward with their own sexual assault story after hearing about others.

The original sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby surfaced in the 1980s but faded away as Cosby's career continued, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, the allegations that started again in 2014, after comedian Hannibal Burress publicly called Cosby out, held the American public's attention. More than 50 women have made accusations against Cosby in the past two years, and earlier this year he was charged with sexual assault in Pennsylvania.

Jesse Singal from New York Magazine's Science of Us tried to explain the phenomenon of rolling group accusations through sociology.

After more and more women publicly accused Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of sexual assault (many of which followed the release of the 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape), some people found the timing of the group accusations to be suspicious. However, sociologist Ari Adut of the University of Texas wrote that when one "suspected transgression" becomes common knowledge it can cause a chain reaction "moral scandal" that causes more people to come forward and fewer people to protect the accused. Here's what Jesse Singal wrote about his findings: 

"What that means is that in a situation where a bunch of people know stuff about a high-profile individual’s behavior, it may take 'collective and focused attention,' as Adut, the author of 'On Scandal: Moral Disturbances in Society, Politics, and Art,' puts it, to trigger a chain reaction in which the story fully breaks into the public consciousness."

RELATED: Brock Turner Spent More Time in Jail Than Most People Who Commit Sexual Assault