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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 199841 Find in a Library
Title: Perceptions of Child Sexual Abuse: Victim and Perpetrator Characteristics, Treatment Efficacy, and Lay vs. Legal Opinions of Abuse
Journal: Journal of Child Sexual Abuse  Volume:11  Issue:1  Dated:2002  Pages:53-74
Author(s): Lisa L. Reynolds; John C. Birkimer
Date Published: 2002
Page Count: 22
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article presents findings of two studies designed to measure perceptions of child sexual abuse, including what constitutes abuse, what effect the abuse has on the victim, and issues of accountability for the abuse.
Abstract: Previous research has shown that perceptions of child sexual abuse vary greatly, especially in terms of culpability for the abuse. Victims of child sexual abuse are often seen as at least somewhat culpable or responsible for their abuse, depending upon their reaction or resistance to the abuse. In order to further probe these perceptions, the authors designed two experiments in which undergraduate students enrolled in an introductory psychology class were asked to respond to a series of vignettes. These vignettes described a sexual encounter between a man and a girl, in which the man was described as the aggressor and the girl as the victim. In the first experiment, the age of the girl and her response to the encounter were varied. Responses of the victim were described in the vignettes as encouraging, passive, or resistant. Ninety males and 93 females responded to the first experiment. In the second experiment, 60 males and 60 females responded to vignettes in which the victim response and the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator were varied. Results of analysis of variance and analysis of covariance for both experiments revealed that how a victim reacted to sexual advances by a perpetrator affected whether the victim was seen as sexually abused or not. Also affecting perceptions of child sexual abuse were the victims’ age and the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. Male and female respondents differed in their perceptions of abuse, with females perceiving sexual abuse across all vignettes while males varied on their perceptions of abuse depending upon the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. Males were more likely to perceive abuse if the perpetrator was a father figure as opposed to a neighbor. In conclusion, the authors note that their research is limited by their sample of college students. Future research about perceptions of sexual abuse should strive to obtain a more representative sample. References
Main Term(s): Child Sexual Abuse; Perception
Index Term(s): Adolescent victims; Child victims; Female victims; Victim resistance to attack; Victim-offender relationships
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