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Beliefs Commonly Held by Adults About Children's Behavioral Responses to Sexual Victimization

NCJ Number
Child Abuse & Neglect: The International Journal Volume: 32 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2008 Pages: 485-495
Rita Laura Shackel
Date Published
April 2008
11 pages
With the opposing views of whether or not adults are generally well informed about how children respond to sexual abuse, this article seeks to determine which is more consistent with existing research by undertaking a review of the findings of empirical research on adults’ understanding of the behavioral responses of children to sexual victimization.
This review shows that many people in society, including some professionals, believe that delay in disclosure, retraction and inconsistent reporting of sexual abuse are uncommon and are indicative of fabrication of all allegations of sexual abuse; usually victims of child sexual abuse are fearful of the perpetrator; and most children will display clear behavioral indicators of sexual abuse. Further, many people also believe that most cases of child sexual abuse involve physical force and sexual intercourse, and that physical findings will usually exist. This research provides important insights into the beliefs and knowledge of the community at large about the dynamics of child sexual abuse. This article reviews the findings of empirical research on adult beliefs about how children commonly respond to sexual victimization. The question of how well adults understand the behavior of sexually abused children is important. Tables, references