Expert on trauma discusses why some sexual assault survivors wait years to come forward

Why some sexual assault survivors wait years to come forward

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - New allegations of sex crimes against students at New Hanover County Schools sent shockwaves through our community over the past few weeks.

Since 2018, five coaches, educators or administrators have been charged with sex crimes involving underage students.

In the most recent cases of former Noble Middle School Assistant Principal David Bostian and former Hoggard High School volleyball coach Ronnie Strickland, the incidents reportedly happened decades ago.

While she could not comment on the specifics of either of these cases, Chelsea Croom, from The Rape Crisis Center of Coastal Horizons Center, Inc., said it is not rare for a rape survivor to come forward years or even decades after the assault.

“There are a lot of things that can cause somebody to either wait a very long time to report or never report,” she said. “I would like to say the times have changed so people who are coming out now maybe didn’t have access to things that allowed them to know that they could report these types of things. There’s also the fear of not being believed. There’s also the process of reporting. It can be very scary going to the police, not trusting the police, there are a lot of different things that can cause people to not feel confident in reporting. Maybe they didn’t know that it was sexual assault until later. I know that that’s a common theme. Some people buried it down deep and they don’t...they just try not to think about it and years later after receiving trauma therapy after talking with people about what sexual assault looks like, then they realize this was sexual assault and I want my voice to be heard and that is absolutely within our victims rights.”

Croom said many never report what happened.

According to a report from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the majority of sexual assaults, an estimated 63 percent, are never reported.

The report also stated that the number of false reports are low.

“Of those that are reported, only between 2 and 10 percent are false,” Croom said. “So, it very rarely happens. RCC and a lot of other agencies that we have in our community, that’s why we start by believing the survivors.”

Croom wants victims to know help is available.

The Rape Crisis line is 910-392-7460.

More information about resources for survivors and families can be found here.

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