Parental Attitudes Following Disclosure of Sibling Sexual Abuse: A Child Advocacy Center Intervention Study

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Abstract

Sibling sexual abuse (SSA) represents a range of childhood sexual behaviors that cannot be considered manifestations of age-appropriate curiosity. Despite being the commonest and longest lasting form of sexual abuse within the family, SSA is the least reported, treated, and researched. This qualitative study is based on a sample of 60 mostly religious Jewish families referred to a child advocacy center (CAC) in Jerusalem from 2010 to 2015. It examines parental attitudes to SSA and their reconstruction, during and after their experience at the CAC. Analysis of case summaries and documented conversations between child protection officers and parents reveals 2 main initial parental attitudes after the disclosure SSA. The first is the attitude that no sexual acts took place at all. The second is that they did occur, with 3 different variations: the sexual acts as “not serious,” as a “rupture in the family’s ideal narrative,” and as “another tragic episode in the family’s tragic life story.” Findings also suggest that the CAC intervention is a turning point, leading most parents to reconstruct their initial attitudes from “never happened” or “not serious” to “rupture in the family image” or to “another negative event in the family.” These findings underscore the need to study the experiences of parents whose children were involved in SSA to inform policy, treatment and research. This is critical, as interventions that are not aligned with family attitudes and needs are known to exacerbate the family crisis.

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