When disclosure is delayed

When disclosure is delayed

By Mary Ellen Stone, Executive Director

Over the last four decades, KCSARC has helped thousands of adults and children who have survived sexual assault and abuse. We provide a 24-hour Resource Line, legal advocacy, therapy, family education and other direct support. These services help alleviate the trauma of sexual assault, and help hold perpetrators accountable. 

The nation is currently discussing whether to acknowledge and put in place a process to further examine a disclosure of assault that happened years ago.  Some are wondering why the disclosure is now being made.

In our experience, a delay in disclosing or reporting a sexual assault or abuse is extremely common. In fact, national statistics indicate fewer than 40% of rapes are ever reported to law enforcement.  

Each case of assault is different, but in the majority of cases, the perpetrator is someone known to the victim, and may hold significant real or perceived power over a victim. An abuser may be a family member, teacher or religious leader, employer, or landlord, for example.  A survivor may not feel they will be believed or supported if they disclose, as sexual assault is a crime that often has no other witnesses. In addition, a victim may fear they will face re-traumatization from a criminal justice system, a peer group, or the broader community that does not understand the unique effects of trauma associated with sexual assault.

In many cases, a victim may choose to delay reporting for many years. Meantime, many live with real and devastating effects of unresolved trauma.

Our role is to believe and support anyone who comes forward to report sexual assault or abuse, regardless of whether that happened recently, or years ago. In fact, many of those who have called our Resource Line over the last year are people now well into their adulthood whose abuse happened when they were young people. Unfortunately, there is no criminal justice remedy in Washington State for someone who delays reporting for many years due to the state’s limited and confusing statute of limitations.

KCSARC is here to support anyone who has experienced or witnessed sexual violence, whether they need information, legal advocacy, or therapy to work through trauma. Our services are available to anyone whether they choose to report to law enforcement immediately or not.

 

If you or someone you know needs help or has questions, call KCSARC’s 24-Hour Resource Line at 888.99.VOICE (888.998.6423).

Trained advocates will answer your call, provide crisis intervention, information and referrals, and ongoing support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your call is confidential. This vital resource is for victims, their families and friends, or anyone who is concerned about sexual assault or child abuse and safety in their community.

 

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