Children’s Peritraumatic Responses During Sexual Abuse Incidents: Exploring the Narratives of Children From Different Ethnoreligious Groups in Israel

Bella Klebanov*, Carmit Katz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

The peritraumatic response of children during incidents of child sexual abuse (CSA) is a neglected construct in the literature. Despite the widespread use of the fight-flight-freeze model, recent studies have shown that in the unique context of child abuse, additional peritraumatic responses could be relevant. The current mixed-methods study examined children’s peritraumatic responses to CSA. The sample consisted of 249 forensic interviews with children aged from 4 to 13 years. An initial qualitative analysis resulted in identifying various ways in which the children responded to the abuse, the children’s decision-making around these responses, as well their perceptions of their response. This analysis was followed by quantitative analyses, which explored the frequency of these peritraumatic responses and their correlation with the characteristics of the children and abuse. Six peritraumatic response categories were identified, the most common being fight, flight, and fear. Only ethnoreligious identity was significantly correlated with the fight-or-flight response, with a significantly lower frequency among Muslim and ultra-Orthodox Jewish children. Frequency of abuse and perpetrator familiarity were correlated with the frequency of the fight-or-flight response, indicating that the latter was less relevant in reoccurring incidents of abuse and with perpetrators who were family members. The findings promote the conceptualization of children’s peritraumatic responses during incidents of abuse and the realization of the crucial role of children’s ecological systems in their peritraumatic responses to incidents of abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)NP14830-NP14853
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Volume37
Issue number15-16
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2022

Keywords

  • child sexual abuse (CSA)
  • ethnoreligious group
  • forensic interviews
  • mixed methods
  • peritraumatic responses to abuse

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