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Child Abuse Negl. 1996 Sep;20(9):881-91.

How do children tell? The disclosure process in child sexual abuse.

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Department of Psychology, University of Texas at El Paso 79968, USA.


Children's disclosure of sexual abuse has been described as a quasi-developmental process that includes stages of denial, reluctance, disclosure, recantation, and reaffirmation (Sorenson & Snow, 1991, Summit, 1983). It has been reported that nearly 75% of sexual abuse victims initially deny abuse, and that nearly 25% eventually recant their allegations (Sorenson & Snow, 1991). The present study examined disclosures in 234 sexual abuse cases validated by Protective Services in El Paso, Texas. Denial of abuse occurred in 6% of cases, and recantation in 4% of cases in which a child had already disclosed abuse. Four of the eight victims who recanted appeared to do so in response to pressure from a caretaker. The Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome described by Summit (1983) seems to be infrequent among the types of cases seen by child protection agencies. The present findings do not support the view that disclosure is a quasi-developmental process that follows sequential stages.

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