SANTA MONICA (CBSLA.com)   —  People defending comedian Bill Cosby against rape and sexual assault allegations want to know why many of his accusers took many years, or decades, to come forward.

Santa Monica resident Karen Pomer told CBS2’s Laurie Perez she knows exactly why.

“I encourage people to report but I also am very understanding of the people who choose not to because you don’t know what’s in store for you,” said Pomer.

As a survivor of sexual assault no one knows better than Pomer how difficult it is for rape victims to speak out.

She told Perez she was kidnapped and raped by a stranger 20 years ago and when she reported it her painful, private tragedy became a public ordeal.

That’s why she’s hopeful the accusations against Cosby and his arrest Wednesday could help break stigmas — as every detail makes headlines the allegations will highlight the violence and intimidation victims often report that keeps them silent.

“It could encourage people because it was very empowering to see all these women come forward at the same time,” Pomer said.

But she warns what happens in the case could also determine its effect on future victims speaking out.

“On the other side we don’t know what’s gonna happen in the trial, what kind of fishbowl these women are going to be in how they’re lives are going to be scrutinized and that might be something that would cause women to shy away from it,” she said.

Pomer is realistic — she says national statistics show only 2 percent of accused rapists are ever convicted. But as a victims’ advocate she still encourages survivors to report their attacks, if not for themselves, for others.

“There’s nothing you can do to undo what happened to you,” Pomer said, “but you can prevent another woman from being hurt and that is what motivated me. It’s said the rapist rapes an average of seven times before they’re caught.”

Pomer says the case against Cosby could be especially powerful — because if convicted == it will show that even the most powerful and beloved figures will be held accountable if they commit rape.

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