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Child Abuse Negl. 2009 Apr;33(4):209-17. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2008.11.001. Epub 2009 Mar 26.

Child abuse: betrayal and disclosure.

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1
Department of Psychology, 1227 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1207, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

The current study tested several hypotheses about disclosure of childhood sexual, physical, and emotional abuse derived from Betrayal Trauma Theory [Freyd, J. J. (1996). Betrayal trauma: The logic of forgetting childhood abuse. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press]. We predicted that the duration of time from abuse to its disclosure would vary as a function of victim-perpetrator closeness.

METHODS:

Data collected from 202 undergraduate participants using a survey methodology were submitted to logistic regression analyses. The relative variance explained by other variables was also examined.

RESULTS:

Compared to survivors of emotional abuse (EA) who were in not very close (NVC) victim-perpetrator relationships, EA survivors in very close (VC) victim-perpetrator relationships were significantly more likely to wait 1 or more years to disclose, or never to disclose, than to wait a period of time less than 1 year (OR=2.65). Further, survivors of physical abuse (PA) in VC victim-perpetrator relationships were significantly more likely to wait 1 or more years to disclose their abuse, if it was disclosed at all, than PA survivors of NVC victim-perpetrator relationships (OR=3.99). Results for sexual abuse were not significant.

CONCLUSIONS:

For EA and PA, VC victim-perpetrator relationships predicted longer durations of time from abuse to its disclosure than NVC victim-perpetrator relationships.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS:

Although delayed disclosure may support necessary (albeit abusive) attachments with caregivers, it may also prolong the abuse and prevent receipt of support. Increased awareness that VC victim-perpetrator relationships may predict longer durations of time from abuse to its disclosure, and that these delays may serve a functional purpose, can help guide supportive and empathic responses to traumatic disclosures.

PMID:
19327833
DOI:
10.1016/j.chiabu.2008.11.001
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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