The disclosure of sexual abuse during middle childhood : a forensic social work perspective
Van Huyssteen, Yolanda
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Working with sexually abused children and conducting forensic assessments is a difficult task for many professionals working in the field of child sexual abuse. In this specialised field, it is imperative that professionals are aware of the disclosure process, as well as what contributes to, or hampers the disclosure of sexual abuse. The aim of this study was to explore and describe the disclosure of sexual abuse during middle childhood years from a forensic social work perspective. Research indicates that there are numerous factors that can play a role in the disclosure of sexual abuse, but that there are still shortcomings about disclosure in literature. The researcher adopted a qualitative approach to explore the disclosure patterns of sexual abuse during middle childhood with professionals working in the field of forensic social work. Eight semi-structured interviews were conducted with professionals who have experience in forensic social work. The interviews focused on the disclosure patterns of children during middle childhood, as well as the relationship with the perpetrator, the responses of the caregiver that is characterised by shock and denial, how long children take to disclose sexual abuse, the relationship between the caregiver and the child concerned, as well as recommendations in the context of forensic social work and the disclosure of sexual abuse. The data from the semi-structured interviews was analysed and divided into themes and subthemes, which were further described and linked with the relevant literature. It became clear that the disclosure of child sexual abuse is a complex phenomenon, which is valuable when working in the forensic context. The disclosure process was explored, and certain factors were highlighted that contribute to the disclosure of sexual abuse, as well as factors that hamper disclosure. Some of these factors include intra- and extra-familial abuse, the developmental stage of the child concerned, negative responses from the caregiver, the presence of threats and grooming as characteristics of the relationship between the child and the perpetrator, positive attachment with a caregiver that contributes to disclosure and the highly individualised cases of child sexual abuse. The respondents also made practical recommendations regarding disclosure and indicated how important it is to have the necessary training in order to handle the disclosure of sexual abuse in the correct manner.
- Humanities