Top-Five Reasons Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors Do Not Immediately Come Forward
Delayed reporting of childhood sexual abuse is extremely common. Researchers have known this for years. Unfortunately, the law does not keep up with science very well. In recent years, several states have altered their respective statute of limitations laws in favor of survivors, including Maryland. A statute of limitations (SOL) limits a victim’s right to obtain compensation after a certain amount of time passes. With Maryland’s re-worked SOL for childhood sexual abuse survivors, people are virtually guaranteed a day in court, no matter how much time has passed.
Lawmakers have opened the courthouse door for childhood sexual assault victims, but only a good Baltimore childhood sexual abuse survivor attorney can help victims capitalize on this rare opportunity.
For years—maybe decades for some—survivors have had to spend thousands of dollars on medications and therapies just to get the healing process started. Now, reimbursement is available for prior and future medical expenses. Perhaps, even more importantly, the institutions that allowed, harbored, and turned a blind eye to the abuse must now answer for their misconduct.
Remember, you are not alone. It is not your fault. And it is okay if you have not come forward with your truth. The mind is a powerful thing, and it can be difficult to speak up about surviving sexual assault. Here are the top-five reasons survivors might not immediately report abuse:
Overall, shame is a deep feeling about being exposed and unworthy. When we feel ashamed, we want to hide. We hang our heads, stoop our shoulders, and curve inward as if trying to make ourselves invisible. Ashamed people do not publicize their shame.
Specifically, sexual abuse can leave survivors feeling defiled, spoiled, violated. What’s more, shame can be so strong that, in many cases, victims blame themselves for the incident and assume they must have done something wrong—they absolutely did not. Shame can be especially bad in same-sex abuse cases.
Abusers who have authority over sexual abuse survivors often directly or indirectly threaten reprisal if they tell anyone about the assault. To an adult, these kinds of empty threats could mean nothing. But to a child, these threats could mean everything and seem much more real.
Also, many survivors do not immediately come forward because they fear they will not be believed. Until very recently, they had good reason to feel this way. Survivors’ accounts are often scrutinized to the point of exhaustion. In high-profile cases, people are often labeled “opportunists” and “liars,” are blamed for their own victimization, and are punished for speaking up.
Compartmentalization and denial are the next logical step from fear. To ease their guilt, their shame and fear, sexual abuse survivors will convince themselves that the incident was “not that bad” or that it did not even happen. Once that happens, in the survivor’s mind, there’s nothing to report.
Often, denial involves making excuses for the abuser, such as “Maybe they couldn’t help it,” or “Maybe they didn’t realize what he did was wrong.”
The three preceding effects can combine to drastically lower a survivor’s self-esteem. They do not value or respect their own bodies or their own integrity, so if someone violated them, they downplay it as if it did not matter. Even the most confident children cannot sustain their sense of confidence if they are sexually violated. They can feel so much shame that it is almost impossible for them to hold their heads up high. They are not motivated to continue their paths, whether it be college or a career.
Learned helplessness is a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed. In other words, when people feel like they have no control over what happens, they simply give up and accept their fate. If a survivor has given up hope of being believed or heard, of feeling worthy, it can be near impossible for them to feel as though they could or should speak up and seek justice.
Rely on a Compassionate Sexual Abuse Survivor Attorney
But remember, you are not alone. If you have experienced any of these feelings, it is not your fault. The mind is a powerful thing. And nothing you did was the reason the sexual assault happened. The abuser and any institution that harbored such a person are at fault.
Sexual abuse survivors are entitled to significant compensation under Maryland’s revised statute of limitations.
If you or a loved one experienced childhood sexual abuse and are ready to talk, please contact The Yost Legal Group. We offer free, confidential consultations. We have compassionate and experienced childhood sexual abuse survivor attorneys right here in Baltimore: 1-800-967-8529.