Myth and Reality: the Dimensions of Child Sexual Abuse
In recent years there has been a welcome improvement in awareness and understanding of child sexual abuse and its associated phenomena. A number of carefully conducted surveys have clarified the incidence of child sexual abuse, revealing that it is not, as previously assumed, a rare occurrence, nor one that is confined to obviously ‘disturbed’ segments of the population. It has also become clear that many instances of sexual abuse occur within families and that abusers are known to their child victims, often being relatives or adult friends. The ‘warning signs’ of sexual abuse are becoming more familiar, and professionals are now less likely to dismiss as fantasy stories told to them by children — although the claims and counter-claims concerning ‘ritualistic’ abuse have clouded the issue once more. The aims and principles of statutory and therapeutic work with the victims of sexual abuse and their families have been matters for serious and vigorous debate, producing clearer guidelines in both areas.
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