In some cases, clergy abuse will come to light years or even decades after it happens. This leads people to ask why the victim didn’t come forward immediately. Why would they keep it secret for so long?
Everyone’s situation is different, so there are numerous reasons why this happens. It does not take away from the validity of the claims. Some examples of potential reasons are noted below.
It happens when they are children
First and foremost, clergy abuse often focuses on children. These children may not know who to talk to, or they may not even fully understand what’s going on, depending on their age.
They feel like it’s their fault
Another potential issue is that people feel like it’s their fault in some way or that they caused it to happen. For instance, one woman related that she had always been taught that the clergy at her church were appointed by God, so she just assumed that she must’ve done something wrong to cause the abuse. It never dawned on her – until she was older – that the clergy member could be in the wrong.
They are afraid people won’t believe them
Shame is also a major reason why people don’t make reports. They feel uncomfortable about what happened and they’re not sure that other people will even believe them. After all, the clergy member may be an important person in the local community. This also happens because many of the victims are children who would be speaking up against adults, so they feel they won’t be believed.
Abuse situations are unfortunately common and very complicated. Those who are working through this process must be aware of all the legal options at their disposal.