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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Caregiver support in child sexual abuse : an investigation into factors that impact delays of disclosure Wallis, Cassidy R. D.


Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a pervasive and devastating offence estimated to impact 12% of children globally (Stoltenborgh, van IJzendoorn, Euser, & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2011). For perpetrator conviction or disruption of contact, victim testimony is often required in leu of physical evidence (Tashjian, Goldfarb, Goodman, Quas, & Edelstein, 2016). However, disclosure of CSA can be difficult as children face multiple barriers to reporting abuse. Victim characteristics such as age and gender impact disclosure (Lippert, Cross, Jones, & Walsh, 2009; Leach, Powell, Sharman, & Anglim, 2017), as well as abuse-specific factors (e.g., relation to perpetrator, severity and frequency of abuse; Hershkowitz, Lanes, & Lamb, 2007). Non offending caregiver support has been shown to mitigate the adverse psychological outcomes of abuse (e.g., Bolen, & Lamb, 2008) and may also increase disclosure in investigative interviews. Although these factors have been studied in relation to rates of disclosure, relatively little is known about their impact on delays in reporting CSA. Research was conducted through special access to classified RCMP case files on CSA. All predictors were found to significantly impact delays of disclosure. Contrary to previous studies (Lippert et al., 2009) as age increased or if victims were female, delays of disclosure decreased. Alternatively, if abuse was more severe, occurred at a higher frequency, or if perpetrators were more closely related, delays of disclosure increased. Unique to the current study severity and frequency of abuse were measured and considered separately. Finally, non-offending caregiver support was found to be a protective factor and as levels of support increased so did the likelihood of disclosure. The current study provides potential for tailored approaches according to individual needs and vulnerabilities in CSA investigations and treatments. It also demonstrates the need for supportive programs created for caregivers whose families have been impacted by CSA.

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