The Experiences and Perceptions of Sexually Abused Children as Participants in the Legal Process: Key Conclusions From a Scoping Literature Review

Noa Field, Carmit Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a phenomenon that receives attention from researchers and practitioners worldwide. An unknown percent of cases are disclosed bravely by children to authorities. One part of those children’s journey can involve the legal process, which aims to decide whether a crime happened and, if so, to sentence the offender. To do so, a considerable amount of evidence is required. Part of what makes CSA cases complex is that the child’s word is often the only evidence. There are growing discussions concerning the importance of children’s participation in the legal process, pointing to its contribution to practitioners’ decision-making as well as children’s wellbeing. The current scoping review aimed to examine the existing knowledge regarding how children experience and perceive participation in the legal process following CSA. Although this issue has been previously addressed, the current study was designed to systematically spotlight studies that pinpoint children’s perceptions and experiences. Using PRISMA guidelines, 17 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals over the last 11 years were identified. The analysis yielded a major theme of children’s need for validation, with four subthemes relating to the need to be protected, the need to be seen and heard, the need to be believed, and the need to be provided with support. The themes and how they relate to other aspects of sexually abused children’s lives are discussed as well as practical implications for future studies. The main conclusion relates to the necessity for a holistic approach with children throughout the legal process.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTrauma, Violence, and Abuse
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • child sexual abuse
  • children experiences
  • children participation
  • legal system

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