There are questions being raised lately about victims coming forward years after the assault was supposed to have taken place. It’s important to look at a few things about the process of coming to terms with an assault. In the first place let’s look at the relationship itself. Often times there is a power discrepancy. The abuser is in a position to exert power over the victim. That could display itself in terms of an adult over a child, a boss over an employee, a law person or politician over an ordinary citizen or simply someone with more strength over another. Taking that in to account there is often the threat that physical, economic or emotional harm will be visited upon the victim if she or he reports the incident. This is called an abuse of authority. The duration of that threat can be one week to many years. One report indicates that “one-fifth of victims reported the abuse within a month, but 58% delayed disclosure for five years or longer, and one-fifth never disclosed the abuse to anyone.”
The reason for this is the result of many factors according to an article in The Conversation. These things include “The age and development of the child, the relationship of the child to the perpetrator, the severity of the abuse and the availability of support.” The length of time between the event and disclosure has to do with how long it takes for the person to recover from the abuse. Abuse is often considered a silent crime because the victims are afraid to come forward. Some considerations of this can be found in an article by the National Center for the Victims of Crime.
One of the most important things to realize in this article is that “adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse face misunderstandings and misjudgments when they finally disclose their abuse. Listeners forget that although the victim is now an adult he or she was a child at the time of the abuse. The act of coming forward takes great strength and courage regardless of how long after the abuse they do so. Also, child welfare experts agree that false accusations of child sexual abuse are rare.” In fact one article indicates that 95% are true.
According to another article, the grooming technique many offenders use makes the victim feel as if he or she were an active participant in the abuse. And when the abuser is a celebrity or exhibits power, wealth or influence it is harder for the victim to come forward. According to PCAR it’s because the victim is afraid that others will side with the person in power. In fact, it sometimes takes decades for the victim to admit to themselves that what happened to them was abuse. So, if we want to help victims of sexual assault the most important thing we can do is believe them, believe them because 95% of them are telling the truth.