Victims of child abuse, often take decades to report abuse
(KUTV)- After 4 women publicly claimed that GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore of Alabama sexually assaulted them when they were teens, he denied the allegations and said if they were true, the women would have reported years ago.
Gwen Knight, with Prevent Child Abuse Utah, said it’s not uncommon for people who say they were assaulted to wait years before reporting.
“88 percent of adults who were sexually abused as children did not report the abuse,” she said.
Knight says that often times a child victim of sexual abuse feels intimidated by the abuser who is may be someone in the child’s circle of trust.
Abuse takes time to process – especially for a child whose brain is still developing.
She said adults who report abuse years after it occurred, should be believed.
“If an allegation comes forward, it needs to be investigated,” she said.
Terry Mitchell said she waited over 30 years to "out" the man she says raped her when she was 16.
“I didn’t understand that it wasn’t my fault at the time,” she said.
Mitchell, recently filed a civil lawsuit against the man who she says forced her into having sex when she was a child.
Richard Roberts was a federal prosecutor at the time, sent to Utah for the trial of Joseph Paul Franklin, a man who was accused of shooting and killing two of Mitchell’s friends.
Mitchell was the star witness of the trial as she was with her friends when they were killed.
She said Roberts groomed her and took advantage of her telling her that if people knew they were having sex, she could ruin the trial and her friends’ killers would go free.
Mitchell said for years, she buried any thought of Roberts or what he allegedly did to her.
She felt nobody would believe her. She and her mother felt there was nobody who could help them. Plus, Roberts was powerful.
“I was too afraid to say anything and it caused psychological trauma,” she said.
Recently, Mitchell recorded a conversation with Roberts where he confessed to a sexual relationship with her as a teen.
She gave the recording to the Utah Attorney General’s Office who declined to prosecute, saying back then, the age for consensual sex was 16 and would have only been a misdemeanor. Besides they said, they couldn’t extradite Roberts from Washington D.C. for a misdemeanor charge.
Mitchell was angry that the AG shared a report of the investigation with Roberts rather than prosecute him.
In 2016, Mitchell filed a civil lawsuit against Roberts saying he raped her as a teen.
Roberts suddenly retired the day the lawsuit was filed.
The lawsuit is still pending.
Mitchell said the Utah Attorney General’s Office filed a brief in support of her lawsuit.
She said going public about her alleged abuser was not easy, but it’s given her some relief.
She encourages others to do the same.
“If it takes you 30 years to speak out – great,” she said.