Why some sexual assault victims take years to come forward

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) - The Brett Kavanaugh story and other recent stories about sexual assault reveal what a touchy subject it is. And it also shows how tough it can be for an alleged victim to come forward about an assault.

"Why have you held this to yourself all these years? As you look back can you indicate what the reasons are?"

This is the common question once a victim decides to come forward with his or her story.

I spoke with a local therapist and rape crisis counselor who says it may take someone years to process that sexual assault experience and not blame themselves for what happened.

"It's so scary and overwhelming to come forward, especially if you haven't felt safe disclosing it to other people. You don't have an idea, you don't have people to go with you to make that police report or go with you to the emergency room, someone to sit with you and be there. If you don't have that it can feel completely impossible," says Jenny Lindsay.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 91% of victims of sexual assault are female. Lindsay says the stigma associated with being a victim can be greater for women.

"A woman comes forward and says 'I've been assaulted' and the first thing people ask is 'why should we believe you?', 'how can you prove this to us?' and then people assuming there is some other reason and not just that this person had the courage to come forward but there's got to be something else. They're trying to get someone in trouble or they might want attention."  

Lindsay says when a victim reports a sexual assault, the best thing you can do is listen, support them and let them decide whether to report the assault.

The center has a 24 hour hotline at 706-724-5200

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