In a February 19, 2014 article from the Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20140219-dont-revictimize-sexually-abused-children.ece?nclick_check=1, writers Madeline McClure and April Wilson present an excellent discussion of why child victims of sexual abuse are often re-victimized when they disclose their abuse.
From my own experience as a trial lawyer exclusively representing survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault in civil cases for the past twenty years, I know it takes exceptional courage for victims of sexual abuse to come forward and tell anyone, let alone civil authorities, about being or having been abused. Unfortunately, when they do, victims of sex crimes are often confronted with public scorn; “Why did you wait so long to come forward?” “Get over it.” “These cases are nothing more than false allegations.”
No wonder, then, victims of sexual assault, especially child victims, are reluctant to tell. Perhaps more importantly, they fear retaliation from their abusers. Or, if a perpetrator is a family member or another person in a position of trust, such as a coach, teacher, counselor, or religious figure( priest, youth minister), this fear, intensified by guilt and shame, can be so be so psychologically overwhelming that childhood sexual abuse may not—perhaps even cannot— be revealed until well into adulthood.
When adults accuse a child of lying about sexual abuse, the victim is “re-victimized”. The initial abuse is woefully compounded. For example, in many of the clergy sexual abuse cases I have handled, if a child has told a parent: “Father X touched me…” , the devout parent’s response is oftentime: “Don’t you lie about wonderful Father X.” “You will go to Hell.” This threat was sometimes driven home by a slap across the face or a thorough beating.
Child abuse is epidemic in this country. As the writers discuss, in 2012 alone , child welfare agencies reported over 62,000 children were sexually abused in the United States. Research indicates that 30-40 percent of girls and 13 percent of boys were sexually violated in childhood. Further, 90 percent or more of all claims of sexual abuse have been confirmed true.
We must acknowledge this stark reality and come to comprehend the truly life-altering damages that victims suffer. Whether victims outcries are timely or delayed, we must empower them to disclose these life-altering criminal acts and assure them not to fear retaliation and re-victimization.