Title page for ETD etd-09302008-090850

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Smit, Alida Hermina
URN etd-09302008-090850
Document Title Adolescentsí experiences of parental reactions to the disclosure of child sexual abuse
Degree MSD
Department Social Work and Criminology
Advisor Name Title
Prof G M Spies Supervisor
  • incest
  • parent
  • experience
  • disclosure
  • child sexual abuse
  • child
  • adolescent
  • extra familial sexual abuse
Date 2008-04-21
Availability unrestricted
Child sexual abuse is a worldwide problem throughout the history of mankind. Under the influence of Freud in the 1890ís, an impression was established that claims of sexual abuse were the result of hysterical symptoms in women. His theory of the oedipus complex, depicted girls as fantasizing about sexual attention of their fathers. Children were blamed for their own sexual abuse. In the 1960ís, activists for childrenís rights brought the plight of children to the foreground. Despite the fact that child sexual abuse is declared as a crime today, in the public opinion children are not beyond suspicion of having initiated or contributed to their own sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse ravages childhood. The effect of sexual abuse on children and their families can not be underestimated. Child sexual abuse affects the child, the parents of the child, and the support system of the child by intense feelings of guilt, anger, blame and mistrust associated with the abuse. Role confusion and transgression of interpersonal boundaries before, during, and after the sexual abuse might occur in families affected by child sexual abuse. It is indicated that the victim, parents and the family system need to undergo a healings process after the ordeal of child sexual abuse.

Even though professionals agree that sexual abuse of children has an initial and a long-term negative impact on a personís life, the cause of this harm is not always agreed on. It appears if harm to the child is caused by the incident of the sexual abuse itself, as well as through the reaction of important others to the abused child.

In this study, the researcher explored through a qualitative, applied study, the experiences of adolescentsí of the parental reaction after child sexual abuse. During the literature review, the researcher found that children might hesitate to disclose their sexual abuse to adults as a result of fear. Some children fear that adults will not believe them, blame them for being abused or they fear to cause harm to the family system by the disclosure. Empirical evidence in this study added the observation that children also might not disclose their abuse to parents because they could fear possible parental anger violently expressed towards the offender after disclosure. For the respondents this might lead to the removal of the parent out of the family system, and would implicate according to them, the breaking up of the known family system.

Empirical evidence in this study confirms the opinion of literature that the way in which the parental structure responds to the sexual abuse of the adolescent, may be of major importance in predicting the adolescentsí ability to come to terms with the experience. Parents not validating the incident and conjugating effect of child sexual abuse on their child, might cause re-traumatization of the child and they could have a severe negative impact on the healing process of the child. As time goes by, parents might alter their negative response to the disclosure of the abuse, but respondents in this study were not always able to accept or benefit from the changed parental reaction.

© University of Pretoria 2007


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