The Psychological Impact of Withholding Disclosure of Child Sexual Abuse

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Researchers have found equivocal results with respect to whether the disclosure of child sexual abuse is helpful or not. The threat of harm as well as the possibility of being humiliated, not believed, or blamed, render the disclosure of child sexual abuse difficult for some victims. Suppressing of traumatic events has been linked to negative health effects. The current study investigated the relationship between the inability to fully disclose the abuse and subsequent traumatic symptomatology. Questionnaires including the Trauma Symptom Checklist 40, the Child Sexual Experiences Questionnaire, and the Parental Support Scale were completed by 204 victims of child sexual abuse. Multiple regression analyses were performed using traumatic symptomatology as the dependent variable. The extent to which a victim wanted to tell about the abuse but held back from doing so and the severity of the abuse were related to adult symptomatology. Findings suggest that victims enduring more severe abuse are more likely to hold back from fully disclosing the abuse which is associated with more trauma-related symptoms.

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