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Relationship Between Child Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence and Separating Families

NCJ Number
Marie Hume
Date Published
May 2003
14 pages
In examining the relationship between child sexual abuse and domestic violence, this paper highlights the research that has found the coexistence of these two forms of violence in families, with attention to the impact of this coexistence on separating families.
The author cites Australian and British studies that have found both child sexual abuse and domestic violence being simultaneously perpetrated in families. The central theme in the dynamics of both of these forms of family violence is power and control, stemming from the perpetrator's experience of the abuse of power both from generational and gender perspectives. Feminist analyses of family violence take into account the dynamics of power relationships within the family and argue that patriarchal dominance in the family is an essential component of the abusive family. Studies have further shown that the coexistence of these forms of abuse and the pervasive abuse of power and control of the family members by the abuser not only precipitate divorce proceedings, but also place victims at risk of more severe forms of abuse in the course and aftermath of the family's breakup. There is sufficient evidence from studies in Australia and other countries to dispel the myth that child sexual abuse allegations in the context of divorce are generally more likely to be falsely made out of one parent's vindictiveness. The current assumptions in most Australian family courts is that the children's interests are best met by maintaining ongoing relationships with both parents following a divorce. This principle perpetuates and reinforces denial of child sexual abuse and domestic violence, despite research findings that both forms of abuse coexist in the separating family and are a core component in families that come before the family court. By failing to take into account the connections between child sexual abuse and domestic violence, as well as by failing to recognize that there are legitimate and well-founded concerns about these forms of abuse occurring within the separating family, both the child protection system and family law in Australia have failed to provide protection for abused women and children. 44 references