Why victims of sexual assault may wait to come forward - WSMV News 4

Why victims of sexual assault may wait to come forward

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

With a new headline involving accusations of sexual assault being published seemingly every day, many are wondering why victims wait so long to come forward.

Sexual assault experts say these public reports are providing a powerful opportunity for victims to talk about their private, life-altering experiences – and trust that someone may finally hear and believe them.

"You can never say too many times, 'I believe you, I support you, and I know this is not your fault,’” said Jessica Labenberg, a victim advocate at the Sexual Assault Center of Nashville.

"It's hard to say to the extent to which it was going on before, because it wasn't being talked about. It may not have been disclosed. Stories like this give language and terms,” Labenberg added.

Karl Bolton kept his secret – that he'd been raped by an older boy – for more than 10 years.

"I made an agreement with myself at some point that I would take this to my grave," Bolton told News 4. "This is the ultimate, the ultimate assault against masculinity."

It was only when he went to rehab years later and heard others share their experiences that his secret spilled out.

"A heterosexual male being sexually assaulted can lead to internal questions and internal confusion about their own sexuality," Labenberg explained.

Labenberg said that confusion complicates recovery for many men.

"The male physiological response to non-consensual, sexual intercourse is identical to the male physiological response to consensual sex, which can be very confusing," Labenberg explained.

"Internally in your head, in your heart, you may be screaming 'no.' You may be verbalizing 'no.' But physiologically, your body may be responding the same way it does when you consent,” she added.

Knowing how counseling helped him heal, Bolton now volunteers with the non-profit Sexual Assault Center.

"There are so many people out there that are suffering needlessly. They think they have to do this by themselves, that think that they're alone," Bolton added. "And it's just not true."

To contact the Sexual Assault Center, go to sacenter.org or call the 24-hour crisis and support line at 1-800-879-1999.

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