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Children's and Primary Caretakers' Perceptions of the Sexual Abuse Investigation Process: A New Zealand Example

NCJ Number
Journal of Child Sexual Abuse Volume: 9 Issue: 2 Dated: 2000 Pages: 41-56
Emma Davies Ph.D.; Fred Seymour Ph.D.; John Read Ph.D.
Robert Geffner Ph.D.
Date Published
16 pages
Interviews were conducted with 51 children and 124 caretakers in New Zealand in cases where children made clear disclosures of sexual abuse to obtain information on perceptions of social work interventions, police responses, evidential video units, medical examinations, access to therapeutic services, and the way in which interventions linked.
Interviews were conducted with children between 6 and 16 years of age and their primary caretakers, usually mothers, who had been involved with the sexual abuse investigation process. Interviews were also conducted with social workers and police officers involved. Children and their primary caretakers entered the study at one of two points in time, within 1 month of an evidential interview or after the police closed the file. The semi-structured interview schedules for children and their primary caretakers were developed from consultations with practitioners and from a literature review, and included sections about contact with social workers, evidential interviews, police officers, and pediatricians, and about the overall sexual abuse investigation process. Most children and primary caretakers reported positive experiences of the professionals involved in the sexual abuse investigation process, but problems were noted that concerned delays, interagency collaboration, and the provision of information and support. Primary caretakers were supportive of their children's allegations of sexual abuse, and participants with positive experiences of interventions valued the specific information given and the sensitivity of individual professionals. Delays in the sexual abuse investigation process, however, represented a source of considerable stress. Most participants said the process was too slow in terms of contact with social workers, evidential interviews, and police officers. Further, many caretakers had difficulty supporting their children without adequate information and support for themselves. Although participants described several aspects of the sexual abuse investigation process in negative terms, their overall perceptions of the process were generally positive. 32 references and 2 tables