Every eight minutes, a child in the United States is sexually assaulted. That shocking statistic belies the fact that there are many incidents of child sexual abuse that are never reported, or that are reported many years later. The same is true of adults who have experienced sexual abuse. This is evidenced by the survivors who came out in response to the #MeToo movement. Many of them reported assaults that had taken place decades before.
To those who have never experienced a repugnant act of this kind, it may be hard to imagine that it would go unreported. But there are many reasons that factor in to a child’s – and also an adult’s – hesitancy to report an incident of sexual abuse or assault. The following are some of the reasons victims do not report assault, or report it much later:
Many survivors, both children and adults, blame themselves. They may wonder if they did something to encourage the attack. They may wonder if they were improperly dressed, inappropriately friendly, and so on. Guilt is often quite powerful – especially among members of the Catholic church – and it often deters victims from speaking up.
Because this is a “silent” crime – one that is not often discussed out in the open – victims may experience a great deal of shame. They may feel damaged, and they may believe that others will not respect them because of it.
Because predators are often respected in the church or in the community, a victim may fear that no one will believe that their attacker could have done something so sinister. They may fear that they will suffer ridicule if not believed.
The entire conversation about sexual assault and child abuse is an incredibly shocking topic. Talking about it can be awkward and uncomfortable. This is especially true in religious households, where family members often actively avoid any reference to sexuality – let alone sexual acts committed by priests.
Predators often hold positions of trust, especially among children. The attacker may be a youth counselor or a priest that a child or their parents have turned to during a difficult time. A predator may spend a great deal of time grooming the victim by building a relationship, by giving gifts, and so on. They may also use threats against the child or against their loved ones. The predator may be a priest as well as a close friend of the victim’s family. This often leads back to shame, where a victim may feel they “should have known.”
If you or a loved one has suffered sexual abuse by a clergy member, please call the Allentown clergy abuse lawyers at Williams Cedar at 215-557-0099, or contact us online for a free, confidential consultation. From our offices in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout the areas surrounding Allentown, Scranton, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Greensburg, Johnstown, Eerie, and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.