The thesis explores why sexual assaults are reported or not and what survivors experience after reporting sexual abuse.
– When sexual abuse is reported survivors wish to increase their self-respect, says gestalt therapist Hildur Vea.
She explains that those who report do so because they realize that it is the right thing to do. Even if it may impose new burdens, the study participants say that they are happy to have reported the abuse.
– Reporting has given them greater freedom and more joy in daily life, says Hildur Vea who, as a therapist, has been working with those problems for many years.
From being a subject of abuse to the moment when a survivor is ready to report it, he/she goes through a process consisting of three steps called avoidance, understanding and recognition. It may take up to thirty years to understand that one has been sexual abused. During this period survivors do not tell anyone about what happened. One out of two who experienced sexual abuse forgets that it has happened.
– Sexual assaults are not reported when the victim enters the period of avoidance, he/she does not see any point in reporting it or thinks that it would lead to more negative than positive effects, says Vea.
The authorities need to provide support to survivors of sexual abuse, so that they can process their trauma. Shortening of avoidance period would lead to an increased number of reported assaults.