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Managing the legal proceedings: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of sexually abused children's experience with the legal process
Linköping University, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.
Linköping University, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, The Department of Gender Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Linköping University, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Nursing Science. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1588-135X
2011 (English)In: International Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect, ISSN 0145-2134, E-ISSN 1873-7757, Vol. 35, no 1, 50-57 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to describe how sexually abused children experience the legal process, a process that includes being questioned by the police during the preliminary investigation and by lawyers and the prosecutor in the courtroom, and meeting other professionals from various agencies.

METHOD: Face-to-face in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 children-9 girls and 1 boy between 9 and 15 years old-who had experienced child sexual abuse (CSA). The interviews were semi structured and carried out and analyzed by interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). The aim of IPA is to explore the participants' views of the world and to adopt as far as possible an "insider perspective." IPA draws on a tradition of phenomenology and symbolic interactionism in attempting to understand how people make sense of their experiences.

RESULTS: Five major themes emerged through the analysis: not being believed, making CSA visible, need for support, sanctions for offenders, and lack of respect for the child's integrity. Almost all the children had a feeling of not being believed. They described feelings ranging from anxiety to dread and even terror when they had to describe the CSA they had experienced. Even though the importance of support for such children is already well understood, the children stated that the support they were given was not sufficient. The children said that they wanted support from a single professional who was well informed about both the legal process and CSA. When the children were asked to reflect on sanctions against the abusers, they said that it was important that the perpetrator got treatment/therapy but they also said that imprisonment was desirable. Financial compensation was not as important to them; the damage had been done and money could not compensate for that damage. The children also said that both the lawyers and the media had treated them with disrespect.

CONCLUSIONS: It is valuable for children who have been exposed to CSA to learn that they can take part in the legal process as equal partners with the other participants, and it is evident that the quality of psychological care and support needs to be improved. The children want to be participants in the legal process rather than passive objects of that process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2011. Vol. 35, no 1, 50-57 p.
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-65834DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2010.08.004ISI: 000288112200006OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-65834DiVA: diva2:399389
Available from: 2011-02-22 Created: 2011-02-22 Last updated: 2017-12-11Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Legal Process in Child Sexual Abuse: Difficulties in confirming evidence and providing support
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Legal Process in Child Sexual Abuse: Difficulties in confirming evidence and providing support
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The overall purpose of this thesis was to study the situation of such children in the legal process. In depth-interviews were carried out on ten children aged 8-18 years old. The interviews focused on the children´s experiences and perceptions of meeting with various professionals in the legal process. In-depth interviews were also conducted with nine parents of children who had been sexually abused and who had entered into a legal process. Parents described how they experienced the situation for their children as victims, but also their experiences as parents whose children participated in a legal process. Seven prosecutors with experience of cases where children were plaintiffs were also interviewed in this study.

The interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). This is an appropriate method to explore the participants´ life-world/personal-world and the individuals´ personal perceptions of objects or events, as opposed to an attempt to produce an objective account. In the first study (study I) on the children, five major themes emerged through the analysis: not being believed, making child sexual abuse visible, need for support, sanctions for offenders and lack of respect for the child´s integrity. Almost all of the children had a feeling of not being believed.

In the study (study II) on the parents, three superordinate themes emerged from an analysis of the data: stigmatization, need for support in the parental role and transforming consequences to reality.

Three themes emerged from prosecutors study (study III) difficulties with the evidence of crime, children´s special needs and children´s dependence on adults. The informants´ descriptions of how they perceived the children in the legal process were associated with their experience of the difficulty of finding proof of the crime.

The aim of study IV was to identify and describe the obstacles that can prevent children from talking about sexual abuse in a police interview. Data consisted of 28 investigative interviews with children and 12 police interrogations with non-offending parents. Data interpretation and analysis were based on content analysis. The following categories were identified: not being believed/telling the truth, need for support and dependence on adults, guilt and shame, fear and difficulty in spatial and temporal characterization.

The main conclusion of the thesis is that there are difficulties in confirming evidence when children who have suffered sexual abuse are involved in a legal process. It is also concluded that there is an absence of models with the aim to support children and parents going through the process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2012. 46 p.
Series
Linköping University Medical Dissertations, ISSN 0345-0082 ; 1338
Keyword
Child sexual abuse, legal process
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-85553 (URN)978-­91-­7519-­772-­2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2012-12-07, Berzeliussalen, Campus US, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2012-11-23 Created: 2012-11-23 Last updated: 2015-06-05Bibliographically approved

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Back, KristinaGustafsson, Per ABerterö, Carina

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