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Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 7 Issue: 2 Dated: (1983) Pages: 177-193
R C Summit
Date Published
17 pages
The child victims of sexual abuse typically react to this abuse with a pattern of behaviors that are unhealthy and that require understanding by clinicians if effective intervention is to occur.
The child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome is defined on the basis of experience from dozens of treatment centers in dealing with thousands of cases. The accommodation syndrome has five stages: secrecy; helplessness; entrapment and accommodation; delayed and unconvincing disclosure of the abuse; and, finally, a retraction of the complaint in the face of the usual adult disbelief and blame of the victim. The syndrome occurs because of the factors surrounding the abuse itself and because adults typically respond to child victims' reports with disbelief, blame, and rejection. These reactions compound the trauma of the abuse itself and can drive the child deeper into self-blame, self-hate, alienation, and revictimization. If unchallenged, the accommodation syndrome reinforces both the victimization and society's indifference to it. Clinicians have the power to interrupt the accommodation process and thereby not only to prevent the victim's emotional disability but also to break the intergenerational cycle of child abuse. 71 references.