Why some victims of sexual assault wait years before reporting it

Why some victims of sexual assault wait years before reporting it

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A common question surrounding the allegations against Roy Moore is why now? Why come forward decades after something inappropriate happened?

WBRC reached out to the Crisis Center, which provides counseling and other assistance for victims of sexual abuse and rape. Rhiannon Reese, Clinic Director of Crisis Programs, said it's common for victims to wait years, even decades, before seeking help or speaking out.

"Sometimes people don't come forward because they feel like- 'oh this is fine, I don't have to worry about this, I'm not going to talk about it' and then something happens to kind of trigger it," said Reese. "A lot of that can be the conversation that's happening, because they're hearing about it all the time."

Reese said most victims face doubt when they share their story, but when the alleged incident involves a high-profile person, the backlash can be intense. This can create a chilling affect, discouraging other victims from reporting future abuse.

"If somebody is in your personal community and they're well liked, people are reluctant to believe that somebody like that could do something like that," said Reese. "I think it makes it a lot more difficult for people to come forward."

The Roy Moore scandal caught the attention of one high profile visitor to Birmingham. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, told WBRC she was raped as a child. Weingarten was in town for school visits and said it was painful to see mean-spirited comments aimed at the alleged victims.

"Personally, it's very hard to listen to and watch the stories of those very courageous women now coming out," said Weingarten. "I think they have to be listened to. I think these stories are important and I know if one takes politics out of it, the good people of Alabama will listen to that."

Reese said her job as an advocate is to believe a victim's story and connect her with people that can support and empower her, even decades after a traumatic event.

"By coming forward you're reclaiming it," Reese said. "You're saying this happened to me, but it's not going to define who I am."

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