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Why Didn

Why Didn't the Children Say Something Sooner?

By J. Michael Sharman



Melvin Alexander Moore was doing his clothes at a Laundromat when a fifteen year-old girl came in, saw him, and became so upset that she left the building crying.

The girl testified later that the last time she had seen Melvin Alexander Moore was when she was six years old and he had molested her.

Moore's defense was a pretty simple one – the girl wasn't telling the truth. If he had really molested her, why had it taken nine years for her to press charges against him?

The testimony at his trial was that Moore had been the mother's boyfriend back when the girl was six, and that the girl had, in fact, told her babysitter and her mother that Moore had molested her.

At the time, the mother didn't report it or take her to a doctor. The child's therapist testified that, "Often adults who are charged with caretaking of young children feel so much shame and guilt and denial that a child has been violated while in their care that it is very difficult for them to accept." When a child confides in an adult that someone has molested them, 24% of the adults don't pass on the information to anyone else.[1]

The jury heard the girl, heard the therapist, listened to Moore, and then convicted him of rape.[2]

Lee Roy Donnell lived with his wife and four children in Northern Virginia.  After one of his daughters turned twenty-one, the children finally disclosed that Donnell had been molesting them from four years-old to twenty-one years-old.  Donnell didn't deny he had molested his daughters, in fact, he pleaded guilty to a single count and had to serve one year in jail. Donnell's issue was that his arrest and incarceration had caused his early retirement from the Central Intelligence Agency, and he didn't want his wife to be able to calculate her spousal support based on his pre-retirement income. (In the reported opinion, the judge told the wife she would probably get a higher support amount if she waited and refiled when Donnell got out of jail.)[3]

It isn't simply that some children delay telling someone about their sexual abuse, research of verified cases of child sexual abuse found that "most child victims delay disclosing for significant periods of time and many had never disclosed at the time their abuse was discovered in some other manner."[4] One study estimates that only 3% of child sexual abuse cases are ever reported to the police.[5]

            Arthur Ruiloba was a deputy sheriff. He molested his stepdaughter from the time she was  10 years old until she was 16. She didn't report it until she was 26 years old when she became worried about a female cousin who had abruptly stopped living at the family home. Investigators then recorded a phone call between Ruiloba and the girl during which he admitted having an intimate relationship with her when she was a child. Ruiloba was convicted of three counts of lewd conduct with a child and sent to prison for four years four months. [6]

            Ruiloba's stepdaughter fit the statistical model of a child incest victim. A study of 228 adult female victims of childhood incest found that their sexual abuse lasted an average of 7.6 years. Only one third of the girls disclosed the abuse before the age of 18, and the average age of disclosure was 25.9.[7]

            Molesters are criminals who need to be locked up so that the rest of society can be protected from them. When incarcerated sex offenders were surveyed after their convictions, 50% of the child molesters admitted they had committed other unreported molestations, and 67% of rapists of adult victims said they also had other unreported sexual assaults. The real surprise to the researchers, however, was that the median number of non-sex crimes committed by the convicted sex offenders in the year just before they were locked up was 305 per man, nearly one crime per day![8]

            Maybe you were sexually assaulted when you were a child and you have never told anyone before. Or maybe fifteen or twenty years ago a child told you they had been molested and you didn't pass on that report to anyone. Don't delay anymore. Tell someone today.


[1] Payne, M.L., Hansen , D.J.,  Factors influencing children to self-disclose sexual abuse. Clin Psychol Rev. 2002 Mar;22(2):271-95, at p.273

[2] Moore v. Commonwealth, 96 Vap UNP 1595942 (1996)

[3] Donnell v. Donnell, 20 Va. App. 37, 38-39, 455 S.E.2d 256, ___ (1995

[4] Payne, M.L., Hansen , D.J.,  Factors influencing children to self-disclose sexual abuse. Clin Psychol Rev. 2002 Mar;22(2):271-95, at p.272

[5] Finkelhor, D., & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1994). Children as Victims of Violence: A National Survey. Pediatrics, 94 (4, :413-420.


[7] Child Sexual Abuse: A Review of the Literature by Karen J. Terry and Jennifer Tallon. New York,

N.Y.: John Jay College, citing Roesler and Weissmann-Wind (1994)

[8] Alaska Justice Statistical Analysis Center, Sex Offender Treatment Project: Literature Review (1994), see also, Elliott, M., Browne, K., & Kilcoyne, J. (1995). Child sexual abuse prevention: what offenders tell us. Child Abuse and Neglect, 19, 579–594.