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Child Sexual Abuse Victims as Witnesses: The Influence of Testifying on Their Recovery

12 October 2018
Karolanne O'Keefe

Publication Date
September 2018

Original Abstract
Victims of child sexual abuse (CSA) are likely to show a wide range of adaptation difficulties. In addition, some children and their families are involved in legal proceedings following the child's disclosure. However, little is known about the effects of legal involvement on CSA victim's mental health and recovery.

In this longitudinal study, the effects of testifying were examined in a sample of 344 children at initial assessment (67% of girls) receiving services in a Child Advocacy Centre, of which 130 children testified. The participants' age ranged from 6 to 14 years old (M = 9.42 SD = 2.14). Children and their parents completed a series of measures to evaluate the child's mental health (e.g. depression, anxiety, PTSD) at four points in time over a 2-year period.

Multilevel analysis indicates that all the children showed significant improvement over time but the group who testified more than once shows higher levels of emotional distress 2 years after the initial assessment. This study highlights the importance of documenting the experience of CSA victims in the justice system in order to establish the adequate conditions to support child witnesses.

Hany Elmi, M., V. Daignault, I. and Hébert, M. (2018). Child sexual abuse victims as witnesses: the influence of testifying on their recovery. Child abuse & neglect. DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.09.001.

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children, victims, sexual violence, testimony, treatment, support, family, disclosure, mental health


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