Delay in disclosure of childhood rape: Results from a national survey

Daniel W. Smith, Elizabeth J. Letourneau, Benjamin E. Saunders, Dean G. Kilpatrick, Heidi S. Resnick, Connie L. Best

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

281 Scopus citations


Objective: This study sought to gather representative data regarding the length of time women who were raped before age 18 delayed prior to disclosing such rapes, whom they disclosed to, and variables that predicted disclosure within 1 month. Method: Data were gathered from 3,220 Wave II respondents from the National Women's Study (Resnick, Kilpatrick, Dansky, Saunders, and Best, 1993), a nationally representative telephone survey of women's experiences with trauma and mental health. Of these, 288 retrospectively reported at least one rape prior to their 18th birthday. Details of rape experiences were analyzed to identify predictors of disclosure within 1 month. Results: Fully 28% of child rape victims reported that they had never told anyone about their child rape prior to the research interview; 47% did not disclose for over 5 years post-rape. Close friends were the most common confidants. Younger age at the time of rape, family relationship with the perpetrator, and experiencing a series of rapes were associated with disclosure latencies longer than 1 month; shorter delays were associated with stranger rapes. Logistic regression revealed that age at rape and knowing the perpetrator were independently predictive of delayed disclosure.Conclusions: Delayed disclosure of childhood rape was very common, and long delays were typical. Few variables were identified that successfully predicted disclosure behavior, but older age and rape by a stranger were associated with more rapid disclosure. This suggests that the likelihood of disclosure in a given case is difficult to estimate, and predictions based on single variables are unwarranted. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-287
Number of pages15
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Child rape
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Disclosure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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