Processing Trauma: Why Does it Take Abuse Victims Time to Come Forward?

Processing trauma: Why does it take abuse victims time to come forward? When a person experiences sexual abuse, it may take hours, days, weeks, or even years for them to tell someone else. A survivor may not come forward right away for a number of reasons. For instance, they may fear their abuser or blame themselves for the abuse. In addition, someone who has endured this kind of trauma may not have fully processed their experience. Here is more on understanding why abuse victims need to come forward in their own time.

Trauma Takes Time


Processing trauma takes time. Every person is unique, and how one person copes with the pain of their experience may differ greatly from another. When a person is sexually abused or assaulted, they endure physical and psychological trauma that the mind and body can’t always immediately perceive and manage. In some cases, a survivor may not be conscious of the abuse for months or even years. It may take even longer for them to come to terms with processing trauma and and to be ready to come forward.


Processing Trauma and Barriers


Abuse survivors may manifest symptoms of their experience long before processing their trauma. Depending on the person, someone who has been sexually abused or assaulted may have difficulty forming interpersonal relationships at home or work. Not having support or stability in these environments can make it more difficult for survivors to feel safe processing their experiences with others. In addition, a person in this situation may also have issues with substance abuse, post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. These and other issues can create barriers that make it more difficult for survivors to come forward.


Threats, Judgment, and Stigma


Sexual abuse is often perpetrated in secret, and abusers will go to great lengths to ensure that survivors remain silent. These efforts may involve threatening to hurt the survivor or their loved ones if they tell. In addition, sexual abuse survivors are often made to feel as if they are to blame for the abuse. It can take years for someone to get past their shame and recognize they were not responsible for what occurred. Even then, many are reluctant to come forward out of fear that they won’t be believed. Processing trauma takes time.


Telling another person about sexual assault or abuse can create feelings of vulnerability, pain, and stress that survivors may be unable to manage without support. In addition, a survivor may fear being re-victimized by being judged or stigmatized by others for coming forward.


New York’s Adult Survivors Act


Historically, New York sexual abuse statutes have failed to account for the time survivors need for processing trauma. Unfortunately, these laws had short statutes of limitations that often expired long before survivors could fully process their experiences and come forward. Consequently, for decades, New York sexual abuse survivors have been denied the opportunity to hold their abusers accountable for their actions.


In recognition of this injustice, New York lawmakers recently extended the statutes of limitations for numerous sexual assault and abuse offenses. This change acknowledged survivors processing trauma in their own time but only applied to abuse that occurred on or after the effective date of the legislation. Consequently, sexual abuse survivors who were assaulted or abused before the laws were amended were denied the opportunity to pursue civil remedies against their abusers.


In response, New York passed the Child Victims Act (CVA), which gave childhood victims of sexual abuse one year to file previously time-barred claims. The CVA window is now closed. However, lawmakers also took action to support victims of adulthood sexual abuse.


The Adult Survivors Act was signed into law on May 24, 2022, creating a one-year lookback window for adult victims of sexual abuse to pursue compensation for their harm. The ASA window opened on November 24, 2022, and will close on November 24, 2023. During this timeframe, survivors who were over 18 at the time of the abuse can file claims against their abusers or certain third parties who are responsible for the abuse, regardless of when the offense took place.


Sexual Abuse and Assault Personal Injuries


The psychological harm of sexual abuse and assault can last a lifetime. In addition, the consequences of this type of abuse can impact virtually every aspect of a person’s life. Survivors deserve to have their day in court and pursue damages for their injuries. Processing trauma is an essential part of the process.


If you have been sexually abused or assaulted, it’s essential that you get the help you need to recover. The sexual abuse injury attorneys of Bonina and Bonina, P.C. can help. We understand the trauma that can be inflicted by sexual abuse and assault. and that processing trauma takes time. Our dedicated sexual abuse injury attorneys can help you evaluate your claim and seek the remedies you need to support your healing and well-being.


Contact a New York Sexual Abuse Personal Injury Attorney


If you have been harmed due to adult or childhood sexual, you may be entitled to compensation for your psychological harm and other damages. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we have over 50 years of experience helping injured New Yorkers. We understand that processing trauma takes time. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MEDLAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits are available—se habla Español.