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How Do Children Tell? The Disclosure Process in Child Sexual Abuse

NCJ Number
Child Abuse & Neglect Volume: 20 Issue: 9 Dated: (September 1996) Pages: 881-891
A R Bradley; J M Wood
Date Published
11 pages
Because children's disclosure of sexual abuse has been described as a quasi-developmental process that includes stages of denial, reluctance, disclosure, recantation, and reaffirmation, the present study examined disclosures in 234 sexual abuse cases validated by Child Protective Services in El Paso, Texas.
Case files were scored for 249 victims, and the primary caretaker was an immediate family member in 96 percent of the cases. Most cases involved one victim and/or one perpetrator; 49 percent of the cases involved penetration, while 55 percent of the cases involved fondling of unclothed genitals. Although previous studies indicate that nearly 75 percent of sexual abuse victims initially deny abuse and that nearly 25 percent eventually recant their allegations, current study findings showed that denial of abuse occurred in 6 percent of cases and that recantation occurred in 4 percent of cases in which a child had already disclosed abuse. Four of the eight victims who recanted appeared to do so in response to pressure from a caretaker. The Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome described by Summit was infrequent among case types seen in El Paso, and study findings did not support the view that disclosure is a quasi-developmental process of sequential stages. Brief descriptions of cases involving recantation are included, and an appendix contains scoring rules for each disclosure event during child interviews. 15 references


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