Sexual abuse is a devastating and all-too-common experience that can have serious and long-lasting effects on survivors. Reporting sexual abuse, supporting survivors, and advocating for change are important steps we can all take to prevent abuse and create a safe and supportive environment for survivors.
In this blog, we will explore the process of reporting sexual abuse, what to expect when reporting, and how to support survivors. We will also discuss the challenges survivors face and the resources available to help them heal and move forward. By raising awareness and supporting survivors, we can create a safer and more just world for all.
Why Reporting Sexual Abuse Is So Important
Reporting sexual abuse is important for several reasons. First, reporting the abuse helps victims recover and prevent future abuse from the same abuser, which is often a terrifying reality for victims.
Second, there can be long-lasting mental and physical health consequences that come from being sexually abused. Reporting that abuse helps victims access the resources they need to heal.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), experiencing child sexual abuse can affect a person’s physical, mental, and behavioral health over a lifetime. It can also result in short-term and long-term consequences like sexually transmitted infections, physical injuries, and mental health concerns.
Third, not reporting sexual abuse allows the offender to continue harming others and can contribute to a culture of silence and shame that makes it harder for survivors to come forward and receive support.
Who to Report Sexual Abuse To
If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, reporting it to the appropriate authorities is important. If you’re unsure what to contact, this section will help.
- Law enforcement: You can report sexual abuse to the police by calling the direct line of your local police station or visiting the station in person. If you are in immediate danger, you can call 911. If you are on a college campus, you can contact campus-based law enforcement.
- Child protection services: If the victim is a child or if you suspect that a child is being abused, you should contact your state or local child protection service agency. Healthcare providers are usually mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect and should contact their state or local child protection service agency regarding child abuse reporting requirements.
- Adult protective services: If the victim is an adult who cannot protect themselves or is in danger, you should report the abuse to adult protective services. These agencies are responsible for investigating and preventing the abuse of vulnerable adults.
- Sexual abuse reporting hotlines: Sexual abuse reporting hotlines can provide support, information, and referrals to victims of sexual abuse. They can also help you report the abuse to the appropriate authorities.
If you are unsure of what to do or how to report sexual abuse, talk to someone you trust. They’ll help you contact the right authorities to begin the reporting process. Please remember that you are not alone.
What to Expect When Reporting Sexual Abuse
Reporting sexual abuse can be a difficult and emotional process, but it is an important step in preventing further abuse and seeking justice for the victim. Here’s a detailed explanation of what to expect when reporting sexual abuse:
- Initial contact: When you first contact the appropriate authorities to report sexual abuse, you will be asked to provide basic information about the victim, the nature of the abuse, and the perpetrator, if known. This may involve filling out a form or speaking with a law enforcement officer on the phone.
- Interview: Depending on the circumstances of the abuse, you or the victim may be asked to provide a more detailed statement about what happened. This may involve a formal interview with a law enforcement officer, during which you will be asked to describe the abuse in detail.
It is important to be as honest and detailed as possible during the interview, as this information will be used to investigate the abuse and potentially prosecute the perpetrator.
- Evidence collection: If physical evidence is available, such as DNA or medical records, it may be collected as part of the investigation. This may involve a medical exam or forensic testing.
- Investigation: An investigation will be conducted once the report has been filed and any necessary evidence has been collected. This may involve speaking with witnesses, gathering additional evidence, and interviewing the victim and perpetrator.
- Legal proceedings: If the investigation uncovers evidence of sexual abuse, legal proceedings may be initiated. This may involve filing criminal charges against the perpetrator or pursuing a civil lawsuit. The victim may be called upon to testify in court or provide additional evidence. Sexual abuse lawyers are trained to represent victims in legal proceedings.
Throughout this process, it is important to remember that reporting sexual abuse can be a difficult and emotional experience. It is normal to feel scared, anxious, or overwhelmed.
Seeking support from a trusted friend, family member, or counselor can help you cope with these emotions and navigate the reporting process. Many organizations and resources exist to support victims of sexual abuse, including abuse reporting hotlines, counseling services, and legal advocacy groups.
How to Support Sexual Abuse Survivors
Supporting sexual abuse survivors is an important way to help them heal and move forward after experiencing trauma. There are multiple ways you can help.
- Believe them: One of the most important things you can do is to believe the survivor and validate their experience. It can be challenging for survivors to come forward and share their experiences, and listening to them without judgment or disbelief is important.
- Listen actively: When a survivor shares their experience with you, it is vital to actively listen to what they are saying. Avoid interrupting or dismissing their feelings, and allow them to speak at their own pace. Let them know that you are there to support them and that they can talk to you whenever needed.
- Offer resources: Many resources are available to survivors of sexual abuse, including therapy for sexual abuse, support groups, and legal advocacy organizations. Offer to help the survivor connect with these resources if they are interested.
- Respect their boundaries: Survivors of sexual abuse may need time and space to process their experience and may not want to talk about it immediately. Respect their boundaries and let them know that you are there for them when they are ready to talk.
- Avoid victim-blaming: It is important to avoid victim-blaming or suggesting that the survivor did something to cause the abuse. This can be harmful and invalidating to the survivor’s experience.
- Check-in regularly: Sexual abuse can have long-lasting effects on survivors, making it important to check in with them regularly to see how they are doing. Let them know that you care about their well-being and are there to support them.
- Educate yourself: Educate yourself on the issue of sexual abuse and the challenges faced by survivors. This can help you be a better ally and provide more effective support.
Remember, supporting a survivor of sexual abuse can be a difficult and emotional process. It is essential to take care of yourself and seek support if needed.
Call Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson Today
Sexual abuse is a serious issue that demands our attention and action. Whether you are a survivor of sexual abuse or a concerned ally, there are steps you can take to support survivors and prevent further abuse. Reporting sexual abuse, offering support, and advocating for change are all important ways to make a difference.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse and needs legal assistance, don’t hesitate to contact Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson.
Our experienced sexual abuse lawyers are committed to providing survivors compassionate and effective legal representation. Call us at 801.500.4000, or fill out the form on our website to get started.
Together, we can work towards a world where sexual abuse is no longer tolerated, and survivors can heal and thrive.