Few adolescent and adult women seek out formal support services in the acute period (7 days or less) following a sexual assault. Instead, many women choose to disclose weeks, months, or even years later. This delayed disclosure may be challenging to support workers, including those in health-care settings, who lack the knowledge and skills to respond effectively. We conducted a systematic literature review of health-care providers' responses to delayed disclosure by adolescent and adult female sexual assault survivors. Our primary objective was to determine how health-care providers can respond appropriately when presented with a delayed sexual assault disclosure in their practice. Arising out of this analysis, a secondary objective was to document recommendations from the articles for health-care providers on how to create an environment conducive to disclosing and support disclosure in their practice. These recommendations for providing an appropriate response and supporting disclosure are summarized.
Keywords: adolescent victims; adult victims; reporting/disclosure; sexual assault; support seeking.