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

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

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1 Women's College Research Institute, Women's College Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
2 Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


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.


adolescent victims; adult victims; reporting/disclosure; sexual assault; support seeking


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