Sexual Violence and Victim Reporting Lag Time

Sexual violence and victim reporting lag time

As the allegations of sexual misconduct by famous and powerful men continue to roll out, one of the most prominent questions being asked is, why didn’t they come forward before now?

Roy Moore – candidate for the Senate in Alabama – has recently been accused by several women of unwanted sexual advances when he was in his 30s. The women were teenage girls.

Many of the stories being told are similar. He befriended them at the mall and called them at school to ask them out on dates. Two women allege he either tried to or did, sexually assault them.

Moore is quoted as saying “To think that grown women would wait 40 years… to bring charges is absolutely unbelievable.”

Maybe Moore is trying to play on the uncertainties some people might be feeling about the sheer volume of women accusing men in power of sexual violence.

Why haven’t we heard about this before? If this was such a widespread problem, shouldn’t we have known? Are these women just riding on the coattails of the others who have come forward, hoping to get some attention?

Misunderstanding of Sexual Violence and how Victims React to it

These questions may come from a misunderstanding of sexual violence and how victims react to it. If you haven’t experienced it, you might not know.

False allegations of rape are statistically very low. We wouldn’t be seeing so many if they were all false. In fact, most sexual violence isn’t reported at all.

According to the National Institute of Justice:

Only 36 percent of rapes, 34 percent of attempted rapes, and 26 percent of sexual assaults were reported. [3]

Reasons for not reporting assault vary among individuals. However, one study identified the following as common: [4]

  • Self-blame or guilt.
  • Shame, embarrassment, or desire to keep the assault a private matter.
  • Humiliation or fear of the perpetrator or other individual’s perceptions.
  • Fear of not being believed or of being accused of playing a role in the crime.
  • Lack of trust in the criminal justice system.

One of the Main Reasons Why Victims of Sexual Violence Don’t Come Forward

One of the main reasons stated by victims that they didn’t come forward is that they feared they wouldn’t be believed. In addition, the stakes are higher when the alleged perpetrator is a rich and/or powerful or much older man.

What we could be seeing right now is simply enough public solidarity to make it safe for these women to finally report these crimes. If the public believed that Harvey Weinstein committed them, and he was actually fired, maybe they will be believed.


Despite the comments of Roy Moore, it’s actually unusual for victims to come forward at all about what happened to them. The same goes for victims of other prominent men in entertainment and government who are being accused.

Additionally, fear and shame may have kept these women from speaking out in the past – to mention relative powerlessness. However, now that there are enough voices saying the same thing, it’s time for everyone to be educated about sexual violence.

If you have been accused of criminal sexual assault, it is critical that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side.

Call today