What Influences Believing Child Sexual Abuse Disclosures?

A University of Orgeon press release (13 Feb) highlights research that explores some of the influences on whether someone is sceptical of a disclosure about child sexual abuse:

A University of Oregon study has found that young men who have never been traumatized are the least likely population to believe a person’s recounting of child sexual abuse. The study – published in the March issue of the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly – also finds that males with high sexism beliefs also tend to believe that such incidents, if they happened at all, were not harmful to the victim.

Some 80,000 cases of child sexual abuse are reported annually in the United States, according to federal statistics. Jennifer Freyd, a UO professor of psychology and co-author of the new study […has] been studying the factors that may explain why some people don’t believe that such abuses occur, a phenomenon that discourages victims from speaking out and allows perpetrators to escape unpunished and possibly repeat such crimes.

Reference and abstract:

This vignette study investigated factors that influence believing child sexual abuse disclosures. College student participants (N= 318) in a university human subject pool completed measures about their own trauma history and responded to questions about sexist attitudes. Participants then read vignettes in which an adult disclosed a history of child sexual abuse, rated disclosures for accuracy and believability, and judged the level of abusiveness. Continuous memories were believed more than recovered memories. Men believed abuse reports less than did women, and people who had not experienced trauma were less likely to believe trauma reports. Gender and personal history interacted such that trauma history did not impact women’s judgments but did impact men’s judgments. Men with a trauma history responded similarly to women with or without a trauma history. High sexism predicted lower judgments of an event being abusive. Hostile sexism was negatively correlated with believing abuse disclosures. Results are considered in light of myths about child sexual abuse.

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