Not every survivor is willing to come forward immediately—or even ever—after being sexually abused. But, for those looking to move forward in the healing process, confronting sexual abuse could be the best course of action. Confronting sexual abuse may look different for every survivor; it can involve speaking up about what happened, pressing criminal charges, or filing a civil lawsuit.
If you are wondering if you should confront your sexual abuser—and anyone else who may have known or aided in the abuse—consider the possible benefits.
Possible Benefits of Confronting Sexual Abuse
Confronting Sexual Abuse Breaks the Silence
Recovery from sexual abuse doesn’t happen overnight. Survivors often endure many stages on the road to recovery but deciding to confront sexual abuse breaks the silence and could make recovering a little easier.
Stages of sexual abuse healing may involve:
- making a conscious, willing decision to seek healing
- dealing with repressed memories and suppressed feelings
- overcoming disbelief and doubt about what happened
- breaking the silence to another—whether friend, family, police, therapist, or lawyer.
- acknowledging that what happened wasn’t your fault
- grieving your losses, coming to terms with how the abuse impacted your life
- relearning how to trust—restoring intimacy with friends and family
- becoming an advocate to prevent abuse and protect others
The experience of speaking out about sexual abuse is unique. Though public sentiment has shifted toward trusting sexual assault allegations, there are still personal and social stigmas. Maintaining silence often feels “safer” for victims as it may not threaten the normalcy and identity they have worked hard to construct. Coming forward anonymously is just as effective. There have been many successful cases where the plaintiff was awarded a settlement in civil court under the name John/Jane Doe.
Confronting Sexual Abuse Holds Those Involved Accountable
Confronting an abuser and holding them accountable for their actions can feel empowering. Civil court allows for an expanded scope of liability—meaning the perpetrator, as well as institutions such as school districts, youth organizations, and church dioceses can be held liable for the role they played in aiding or enabling the abuse.
Reasons to confront an abuser vary from person to person but may include to:
- Validate memories and make sense of strange feelings or dreams.
- Obtain answers, apologies, or the establishment of a genuine relationship.
- Make the abuser and aiding institutions admit to their wrongdoing.
- Seek financial redress for the personal damages suffered as a result of the abuse.
It is important to consider that you may not get the end result you desire. Abusers don’t always come forward to readily admit they were wrong. They can be defensive or angry, rather than apologetic. But, despite their readiness to take responsibility for their actions, they still have to answer to the laws regarding sexual abuse.
Confronting Sexual Abuse Could Lead to Financial Reparation
Survivors of sexual abuse often incur financial losses as a result of the abuse. By filing a civil lawsuit, survivors can seek to have their personal damages covered by the defendant. Settlements in sexual abuse cases may include reparations for:
- treatment of any related medical conditions—physical or mental
- loss of wages and productivity—past, present, and future
- pain and suffering
An experienced attorney will be able to help you determine exactly how to measure harm in your sexual abuse case. Over the course of a lifetime, it has been proven that sexual abuse costs the average victim more than $200,000—which includes healthcare, criminal justice costs, productivity losses, child welfare, and special education.
An analysis of Truth Project participants uncovered that 85% of sexual abuse victims suffered from mental health problems later in life—most commonly depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Half of the survivors struggled with completing higher education or maintaining a job. Four in 10 had difficulties with relationships—whether it was an avoidance of intimacy or having multiple sexual partners with an inability to commit. Some sexual abuse survivors from the study had trouble eating or sleeping, while others were dependent on drugs and alcohol.
The financial reparations you may gain through civil court can’t undo what has happened, but they can help you regain control in life by freeing you from financial concerns and providing funds for seeking treatment.
Confronting Sexual Abuse Could Prevent Revictimization
Confronting sexual abuse could protect you from becoming a repeat victim of the same offender. A typical pedophile will commit 117 sexual crimes in a lifetime, according to the National Sex Offenders Registry. By setting boundaries, calling out unwanted behaviors, and ensuring that crimes go punished, you can effectively work to remove yourself from harm’s way.
One study found children who experienced rape or attempted rape in their adolescence were 13.7 times more likely to experience revictimization during their first year of college. In another study, nearly half of college-aged rapists admitted to having 10 or more victims. Coming forward can also aid in protecting others from sexual abuse. One archival review found at least 35% of convicted sex offenders had multiple victims before they were caught.
Bay Area Attorneys Can Help Survivors Confront Sexual Abuse
Confronting sexual abuse doesn’t have to be a feat you take on alone. At Lewis & Llewellyn, an experienced member of our team will know exactly how to handle your case of sexual abuse. With a compassionate and skilled team of legal advocates on your side, you ensure your physical, mental, and emotional safety during the process. In addition to providing legal services, we can refer you to therapists or local support services while you await a settlement offer or trial verdict.
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