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Why Some Survivors Take Years or Decades to Report Abuse

Sammie Eyde

When someone is sexually assaulted and they go to police or report the incident right away, it makes sense to people. What people don’t understand is why someone may wait years or even decades before coming forward with sexual assault allegations. When people do finally come out and share their struggles, many times some of the first questions they hear are “why didn’t you tell anyone?” and “why did you take so long to come forward?” The truth of the matter is that delayed reporting or non-reporting is common among most sexual assault survivors and even more common in young abuse victims.

            People do not report sex assault for a multitude of reasons. Most of why people do not report sexual assault right away boils down to the “overwhelming feelings of fear, pain, self-doubt and shame” a survivor feels. Perhaps a survivor knew his or her abuser. The abuser was a trusted physician, family member or clergy member who provided guidance to the survivor. The abuser is capable of manipulating the survivor so that the survivor feels badly for the abuser if anything were to happen. The survivor begins to feel guilty his or herself that their abuser may lose employment, family, go to prison, etc.

            The main reason people may delay in reporting sexual assault is because of fear they will not be believed. Many sexual assault victims fear they will not be believed because they are many times a child and the abuser is a trusted member of society. The abuser is someone who could never do something like that. Survivors also face fear that nothing will be done.  A common though among survivors of sexual assault is, “why would I relive my trauma when nothing will change anyways,” which prevents immediate reporting. In a recent article, the Diocese of Lansing serves as a prime example of why many survivors don’t report sexual assault. Out of fear that nothing will be done.

            The Catholic Church received a report of sexual abuse that occurred during a boxing session in 1990 perpetrated by Pat Egan. No investigation was ever done, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office was unable to file charges because the statute of limitation had passed and the Catholic Church Review Board refused to review the matter and the matter for the church was closed.  Then in 2014, another report of unusual sexual like activity during boxing sessions against Pat Egan came about. The Church’s response was to begin an investigation and “prohibit Egan from participating in boxing events or ministering to youth in non-classroom or church settings…”  This means Egan still had access to children. Although the church told Egan he was prohibited from engaging in certain activities, the church did nothing to monitor this, and “in September 2018, the diocese became aware of multiple other reports of Egan boxing.”

            The church’s failure to investigate alleged abuse is perpetuating survivors late reporting. A failure to act and investigate leads survivors feeling no one believes them. Attorneys at Grewal Law, PLLC are here to tell survivors of sexual assault you are believed. Our attorneys strive to help survivors band together and let them know they are not alone. We are here to serve as a voice to survivors and help survivors find the justice they seek from holding the Catholic Church accountable.

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