When a person is the victim of child molestation, they will either tell someone right away or wait, sometimes for an extended period of time, before telling anyone about the abuse. Some people who have been molested never tell anyone. When a child abuse victim waits to disclose the abuse, this is often referred to as delayed disclosure.
Delayed disclosure in a child molestation case is actually fairly common according to research on the subject. But, for a person falsely accused of child molestation, having a person alleged that you did something to them months or even years ago can be highly frustrating. For instance, it is often very difficult to prove that something did or did not occur after a significant period of time has passed – evidence fades, memories fade and establishing one’s whereabouts months or years later becomes nearly impossible.
A common question faced by attorneys, like a skilled Decatur criminal lawyer, of the accused when there is delayed disclosure in a child molestation case is “if I was really doing this to her, why wouldn’t she have told someone at the time?”. Often what people are getting at when they ask this question is that it seems unlikely that a child who was actually being molested would have endured such abuse in silence as opposed to alerting an adult in an effort to make the abuse stop. This is a good point that can be argued on behalf of the accused person by his or her attorney.
However, it is important to understand that the prosecutor will often argue that delayed disclosure in a child molestation case is not unusual and in fact, is understandable given the nature of the crime. One argument typically used by the district attorney is that the perpetrator of the molestation may have threatened or hurt the child so badly that the child was too scared to say anything to anybody at the time the abuse was occurring.
Some children don’t have anyone to tell because they are from a broken or unsupportive family. For example, if the perpetrator is the boyfriend of the child’s mother, the child may be afraid to say anything for fear that she will not be believed or that her mother may chose the boyfriend over the child. If the perpetrator is a close family member the child may chose not to say anything while the abuse is occurring because they are afraid that the allegations will break up the family.
Some children are too young or immature to fully realize that the abuse is wrong. For example, if a child is molested at a very young age, he or she may have no concept of what sexual abuse is or that it is wrong. The child may have no idea that the abuse should be reported to an adult, especially if they are told to say nothing by their abuser. Children may also feel that they are partially to blame for the abuse and do not disclose because of feelings of guilt or believe they may get in trouble if they tell.
The likelihood of immediate disclosure often depends on the facts of the specific case. If a child is asked directly whether they have been abused, the research shows that most children will disclose the abuse. This is especially true if the child is asked is a setting where they feel safe. Also, did the child have multiple opportunities to disclose alleged abuse such as one on one time with supportive family member, social workers or doctors. If a child who was allegedly molested passes up many opportunities to disclose in a safe setting, this can be an indicator that the allegations are false.
It is also important to examine the circumstances surrounding the allegations. Does the person making the allegations have some motivation to be making false allegations now after all this time? If so, talk to your attorney about how delayed disclosure in a child molestation case can be indicative of false allegations.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their insight into delayed disclosure in a child molestation case.