How is it possible to forget that relative or religious leader? Such people will continue to be part of our lives. Even if we avoid the perpetrator, others will speak of him. If the abuse isn't known, they'll likely speak well of him and wonder why we don't like that person. "He was always so nice to you," someone will say. "He really loved and admired you," another might say. We don't know how to respond and mistakenly feel it's too late to say anything.
Our perpetrator is rarely some stranger who assaults us. Most of the time it's a person for whom we retain good memories. The old man who assaulted me had always treated me warmly and kindly. He lured me into his room by giving me snacks. (And only in retrospect could I use the word lured.)
One of my friends told of his confused feelings. "What did I have to gain if I told on my stepfather?" By telling about the sexual assault, he not only felt he would lose his stepfather but the whole family. "And so I never did."
By speaking up, too often the victims get punished. They're not believed, or they feel they're blamed for "ruining" the family.
We're the victims of the abuse,
and sometimes we're also victims of the ruined family.