"Not your fault": A plea for sex assault survivors to come forward

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Counselors and community leaders are putting out a plea for victims of sexual assault to tell their story.

"No matter what, what happened to you is not your fault," says Tana Koss, Sexual Assault Center, Crisis & Counseling Division Director. "And it's never too late to start your journey for healing."

It doesn't matter if the crime happened decades ago. Victims can still seek justice or help others seek justice.

"If you're an adult who experienced sexual abuse as a child, you are not alone," Koss says. "Every nine minutes a child is sexually assaulted in the United States."

Advocates and counselors know there are more victims living with the pain and keeping it secret. They want to help.

"We do encourage people to report these events. And report them until someone is willing to hear you and take that report," says Dave Lasee, Brown County District Attorney.

The District Attorney's Office, law enforcement and representatives from the Sexual Assault Center are joining forces to make the call for victims to tell someone about their assault.

"We're encouraging victims to come forward, no matter what you remember or how long ago it was," says Brown County Sheriff Todd Delain.

It could mean receiving support and help with healing. For some, it will mean seeking justice in a court of law. Officials say survivors have the power to decide.

"It's something that needs to stop. The way we're going to stop this is find those people that are doing it and holding them accountable," says Chief Andrew Smith, Green Bay Police Department.

Victims who were assaulted as a child after 1989 now have decades to report the crime and seek criminal charges against the abuser.

"Generally people who are victims of child sexual abuse, the statute of limitations does not run out until the 45th birthday of the crime victim," Lasee says.

If the crime happened when a victim was an adult, the attacker could generally still be charged within 10 years.

If the statute of limitations has expired, there is still value to reporting the crime. It could help other victims.

"Coming forward may result in us obtaining information that will help us in other investigations that are still within the statute of limitations and ultimately help us obtain that justice," Delain says.

Investigators tell us that victims do not need to remember all the details of the assault. They can still pursue the case.

If you are looking for places to report your assault, we have a list of resources here: Sexual assault hotlines and online resources