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Stockholm Syndrome and Child Sexual Abuse

NCJ Number
Journal of Child Sexual Abuse Volume: 14 Issue: 3 Dated: 2005 Pages: 107-129
Shirley Julich
Date Published
23 pages
This study investigated the reluctance of adult survivors of child sexual abuse to criminally report perpetrators, arguing that Stockholm Syndrome may be a factor in the reluctance to report.
While it is widely assumed that child victims of sexual abuse do not report the abuse because of a lack of power, the author argues that this is an incomplete explanation and cannot account for why grown survivors of child sexual abuse often fail to criminally report the perpetrators of abuse. This article presents the argument that aspects of Stockholm Syndrome, which describes a bi-directional emotional bond between victims and perpetrators, can be observed from the qualitative analysis of interviews with 21 child sexual abuse survivors who were recruited via word of mouth in helping organizations. The trauma suffered by victims of child sexual abuse is described, followed by a listing of the major indicators of Stockholm Syndrome. Qualitative interview data are presented that illustrate the inexplicable bond between survivors of child sexual abuse and their perpetrators, which often persists into adulthood and is likened to the bond observable in Stockholm Syndrome. While the author does not suggest that all victims of child sexual abuse would be victims of Stockholm Syndrome as well, it does appear that those subjected to an ongoing sexually abusive relationship may be susceptible to the development of this syndrome. Implications for child sexual abuse treatment are discussed, as the presence of Stockholm Syndrome could complicate the recovery process. References