Why Do Victims Wait to Come Forward in Child Sex Abuse Cases

New York State’s child sex abuse laws and the statute of limitations have been a large topic of discussion ever since the passing of the Child Victims Act in January. This Act allows many childhood sexual abuse survivors to come forward and bring their claims later in life, when they are ready to make their brave statements, rather than rushing them to do so as young adults when they are not mentally or emotionally prepared. For many victims, the bravery to come forward takes time to manifest, even into late adulthood. We understand why children and adults need sufficient time to come forward to talk about their abuse.

The Child Victims Act is straightforward in language and legalities:   It provides a means for a survivor to bring a civil case even where the old statute of limitations, that was in effect at the time of the sexual abuse, has expired, by granting survivors a one-year “window” to file their lawsuits for child sexual abuse beginning on August 14, 2019.   Going forward, the Child Victims Act provides that child sexual abuse perpetrators can be prosecuted in criminal cases until their victims are age 28, and survivors have until they are the age of 55 to bring civil cases for childhood sexual abuse.  

Survivors tend to wait to speak up about their abuse for a variety of reasons. For many, it’s simply uncomfortable. Survivors push those experiences to the back of their minds until they need to speak up about it for their own mental and emotional well-being. It can become a burden holding in what they’ve experienced; however, the Child Victims Act gives them a chance to speak when they feel absolutely comfortable and have properly processed their trauma.

Because survivors are speaking up as adults, there may be situations, cases or spots in their past that they don’t want discovered and revealed in a public forum. They may feel as though that information will discredit their claims against their abuser and will be taken less seriously. This is not the case. The lawyers at Herman Law will use this information as evidence that the abuse had a detrimental impact on the survivor’s development and upbringing.

While reliving the events that took place can be heart-wrenching, more often than not, talking about the abuse is actually a major part of the survivor’s healing process. The fear of facing an abuser can be crippling and stops many from wanting to pursue the lawsuit at all. However, in most cases, it’s rare for survivors to be forced to face their abusers. Cases involving children are normally brought against institutions such as churches and schools, so the abuser’s testimony is unnecessary.

It’s been reported that 90% of child sexual abuse cases are with a person the survivor knows, such as a family member or close family friend. Because of this familiarity, it’s most likely possible that the survivor was groomed for a significant amount of time, making it much harder for them to understand or tell anyone about their experience. They learn to accept the abuse and even feel guilt for being compliant with the abuse, which is unfair for a victim to have to carry. Abusers are master manipulators and gaslighters, and are often able to convince children that no one will believe them or that what they are doing is acceptable or destined to happen. It could possibly take years for this mental conditioning to unravel, making it infeasible as a practical matter to pursue a lawsuit until later in life.

With the Child Victims Law enacted in law, now is the time to tell your story. Survivors of childhood sexual assault shouldn’t have to wait to speak up and be heard. They should feel safe, protected and have the right representation when they do choose to take justice into their own hands. The lawyers at Herman Law are ready to stand by you or a loved one when it’s time to face the abuser in question. Give us a call at (800) 686-9921 or visit our website to find out more about how the lawyers of Herman Law can fight for your right to speak up and be heard.