Childhood sexual abuse is a serious societal problem. Low rates of disclosure and reporting contribute to the difficulties facing prosecution authorities. There is extensive evidence of delayed disclosure for a variety of reasons. A significant proportion of CSA victims do not complain officially until many years after the abusive episodes. There are two central categories of delay: those in which the victim always remembered the abuse but was unable to complain; and those in which the victim's memory of the abuse was allegedly lost and later recovered. Should we prosecute delayed CSA cases? To answer this question, the debate over whether long-delayed criminal prosecutions should be brought, and the particular concerns raised by delayed or ‘historic’ CSA cases are considered. Societal rationales for prosecution and punishment such as deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation, and retribution are applied to historic crimes. The impact of the decision whether to prosecute on both the victim and the defendant is also analysed.
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