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A preliminary mapping of individual, relational, and social factors that impede disclosure of childhood sexual abuse

Uncovering the pathways to disclosures of child sexual abuse (CSA) and the factors influencing the willingness of victims to talk about the abuse is paramount to the development of powerful practice and policy initiatives. Framed as a long interview method utilizing a grounded theory approach to analyze data, the objective of the current study was to provide a preliminary mapping of the barriers to CSA disclosures through an ecological systemic lens, from a sample of 67 male and female CSA adult survivors, all of whom had recently received counselling services. The current project led to the identification of three broad categories of barriers that were each comprised of several subthemes, namely: Barriers from Within (internalized victim-blaming, mechanisms to protect oneself, and immature development at time of abuse); Barriers in Relation to Others (violence and dysfunction in the family, power dynamics, awareness of the impact of telling, and fragile social network); and Barriers in Relation to the Social World (labelling, taboo of sexuality, lack of services available, and culture or time period). This study points to the importance of using a broad ecological framework to understand the factors that inhibit disclosure of CSA, as barriers to disclosure do not constrain solely the victims. Results are discussed in light of their implications for research, prevention and intervention programs, and social policies and media campaigns, as the burden is on the larger community to create a climate of safety and transparency that makes the telling of CSA possible.


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