Motives for disclosure no bearing on allegation credibility.

I have interviewed dozens of adult victims of childhood sexual abuse in my work for The Washington Post. In those conversations, I have found these survivors to be just as varied and unique in their motives, attitudes and intentions as anyone else. Some of them are angry about what happened to them and absolutely want to see their abusers exposed and punished; some are shy and frightened of public scrutiny, and just want to forget what happened to them. Some want money – which is fair, not only because we use money as a universal means of settling accounts in civil law but also because survivors of sexual abuse are oftentimes in need of money to cover ongoing health expenses, therapy and other costs associated with lifelong trauma. Some of them don’t mind the fame that comes with highly publicized accounts of abuse, which can be refreshing after many years of secrecy and shame; others want nothing to do with the media, or are only comfortable participating in stories if their names and faces are not used.

And none of those motives and explanations has any bearing on whether their allegations are credible. In the coming years, as further investigations and independent probes of individuals and institutions provide new opportunities for adult victims of childhood sexual assaults to come forward, we have a chance to redress old wrongs and build a public and legal culture that is, overall, more capable of rendering justice. Whether that promise pans out will have a great deal to do with whether we can reverse the attitudes that have made reporting these crimes difficult from the beginning.