Expert: Sense of justice fuels abuse victims' courage

Sexual abuse can devastate a victim's life and leave long-lasting trauma. But it doesn't have to be that way, according to clinical social worker Verena Salvi, who said that victims shouldn't feel the need to stay silent.

"What does it matter what happened 30 years ago? Well, let me tell you something—it's 30 years ago for you and me reading about it," Salvi said. "It happened a moment ago for a survivor who had to live with this every day of her life."

An increasing number of sex-abuse victims are publicly coming forward as the #MeToo movement gains traction across the globe. But why do we sometimes hear victims' traumatizing stories for the first time decades after they allegedly took place?

"There is also a sense of justice that a survivor may feel, a sense of obligation that a survivor may feel when they think the person who hurt them is about to gain a tremendous amount of power and influence," Salvi said.

Salvi's clinical observations have led her to believe that one in three women experiences some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes, ranging from catcalling on the street to violent sexual assaults. She said there is no right way to deal with the aftermath of abuse. It is personal and different for every victim.

"What I wish every survivor of sexual assault knew is that they are not alone," she said. "There are people who believe them and will never question whether or not they are coming forward for other reasons other than a sense of justice."

Countless resources are available to abuse victims. The Mayor's Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence has also created educational programs to help victims and their families. You can learn more about the initiatives here.

GET HELP: In an emergency, dial 911. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call 311 and ask for the City's 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline.

Learn about an find a Family Justice Center.

Things to consider about staying safe.