Responding to Delayed Disclosure of Sexual Assault in Health Settings: A Systematic Review

Trauma Violence Abuse. 2018 Jul;19(3):251-265. doi: 10.1177/1524838016659484. Epub 2016 Jul 19.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Disclosure*
  • Female
  • Help-Seeking Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Professional Role*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Rape*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult