CHICAGO — It took her four years to tell someone she was raped.

The victim, now 24, was assaulted by a distant relative who lived down the block and would frequently come over to her mother’s apartment on the south side of Chicago.

But the reason she didn’t tell anyone wasn’t because she was afraid of her assailant, she told NBC News in a soft-spoken slow voice.

Instead, the pain had to be swept under the rug for more imminent trauma — one commonly felt in many of Chicago’s deadliest neighborhoods.

Just after the assault, the victim — whose name is being withheld by NBC News — lost her only brother to gun violence and had to take on the responsibility of providing for her unemployed mother on a minimum-wage job.

“There is always something bad happening to someone, but you got to keep it moving,” she said. “Mostly everyone I know is dealing with something,” she said.

But at some point, “it does break you down,” she said.

Sexual assault is not unusual in Chicago’s violent neighborhoods, but the deadly streets make it difficult to fully recover. Victims not only face the gunfire that continues to whittle away at their communities, but have little access to counseling and other resources. There is widespread distrust of institutions that might be able to help, experts say, and a resistance to appearing weak.

Barriers to Recovery

“Certain environmental vulnerabilities, like high poverty and high crime, leave a lot of structural holes that reduce the opportunity for victims to heal and get help,” said Celeste Watkins-Hayes, a professor of sociology and African-American studies and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in nearby Evanston, Illinois, citing in particular the lack of counseling services.




Image: Gun violence in Chicago

Chicago police investigate a scene in Chicago where gunfire at a birthday party left a man dead and a woman injured on Aug. 7, 2016. The city’s police department said Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, Chicago recorded 90 homicides in August, its highest monthly death toll in two decades.