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The Legal Process in Child Sexual Abuse: Difficulties in confirming evidence and providing support
Linköping University, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine. Linköping University, Faculty of Health Sciences.
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 [en]
Child sexual abuse, legal process
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-85553ISBN: 978-­91-­7519-­772-­2 OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-85553DiVA: diva2:571569
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
List of papers
1. Managing the legal proceedings: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of sexually abused children's experience with the legal process
Open this publication in new window or tab >>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
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
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-65834 (URN)10.1016/j.chiabu.2010.08.004 (DOI)000288112200006 ()
Available from: 2011-02-22 Created: 2011-02-22 Last updated: 2017-12-11Bibliographically approved
2. Parents’ opinions – view of their child´s experiences in the legal process: An interpretative analysis of parents’ opinions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Parents’ opinions – view of their child´s experiences in the legal process: An interpretative analysis of parents’ opinions
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this study was to demonstrate how parents of children, who are victims of sexual assault, experience the legal process, seen from the child’s, as well as the parents’ perspective. Nine parents identified in the records of three public prosecution offices in three cities in Sweden, were interviewed. The parents described feelings of shame and guilt over what their children had experienced. They felt stigmatized and had difficulty fulfilling their parental role; perceived a lack of information and support from the professionals involved; experienced a sense of withdrawal from their role as parents, even though they felt the professionals who worked with their children were helpful and influential.

Keyword
Child sexual abuse, legal process, parents opinions
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-85550 (URN)
Available from: 2012-11-23 Created: 2012-11-23 Last updated: 2014-06-11
3. Sexually Abused Children – Prosecutors' Experiences of their Participation in the Legal Process in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sexually Abused Children – Prosecutors' Experiences of their Participation in the Legal Process in Sweden
2013 (English)In: Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, ISSN 1321-8719, E-ISSN 1934-1687, Vol. 20, no 2, 273-283 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The purpose of the present study was to interview prosecutors, based on their experiences working with children who have been sexually abused. The informants were seven prosecutors identified from the records of three public prosecution offices in three cities in Sweden. The informants' experiences were elicited via individual in-depth semi-structured interviews. The interviews were carried out and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Three themes emerged: (1) difficulties with evidence of criminal conduct, (2) children's special needs, and (3) children's dependence on adults. 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. Informants were found to experience difficulties when they encounter children in the legal process. As prosecutors they often face difficulties proving that the child has been exposed to crime.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2013
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-85551 (URN)10.1080/13218719.2012.666017 (DOI)000317296300010 ()
Available from: 2012-11-23 Created: 2012-11-23 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved
4. How do children overcome difficulties talking about sexual abuse
Open this publication in new window or tab >>How do children overcome difficulties talking about sexual abuse
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Aim of this study 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. The children in these situations were between 8 and 15 years of age when they were interviewed. Data interpretation and analysis were based on content analysis. The following categories were identified: not being believed/telling the truth, need of support and dependence on adults, guilt and shame, fear, and spatial- and time-oriented.

Keyword
Child sexual abuse, legal process, directed content analysis
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-85552 (URN)
Available from: 2012-11-23 Created: 2012-11-23 Last updated: 2013-09-12

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