This study examines the psychological risks of court and related interventions on child sexual abuse victims.
The study design involved a prospective cohort with followup at 5 months. The subjects were 100 sexually abused children, ages 6 to 17 years old, who were recruited from consecutive referrals by social service departments; 75 children completed the study. Using a structured psychiatric inventory, the Child Assessment Schedule, the study found a high degree of distress at referral. The level of distress fell by 26 percent over the next 5 months. The 33 children not involved in criminal proceedings improved 30 percent, compared with a 17-percent improvement in the 22 children waiting for the proceedings. The 12 children who had testified in juvenile court improved 42 percent on the anxiety subscale, compared with a 17-percent improvement in all other subjects. Overall, the study concludes that testimony in juvenile court may be beneficial for the child victim of sexual abuse, but protracted criminal proceedings may have an adverse impact on the victim's mental health. 4 tables and 26 references
Date Published: January 1, 1988
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