Managing the legal proceedings: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of sexually abused children's experience with the legal process
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
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 CategoryMedical and Health Sciences
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-65834DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2010.08.004ISI: 000288112200006OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-65834DiVA: diva2:399389