Abuse Disclosure: What Adults Can Tell

CHILD VICTIMS, CHILD OFFENDERS: PSYCHOLOGY AND LAW, B.L. Bottoms, G.S. Goodman, & C.J. Najdowski, eds., New York: Guilford

USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 09-21

Posted: 14 May 2009 Last revised: 22 Jun 2009

See all articles by Thomas D. Lyon

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Abstract

This book chapter reviews 14 retrospective surveys inquiring into respondent’s child abuse experiences and whether they ever disclosed abuse as children. I discuss the advantages of retrospective surveys (representativeness, reduced likelihood of false allegations, reduced suspicion bias). However, I also emphasize the likelihood of survey reluctance, and explain how this biases upwards estimates of abuse victims’ prior disclosure. If respondents who previously disclosed abuse are more likely to acknowledge abuse to a surveyor than respondents who never previously disclosed abuse, respondents who acknowledge abuse are disproportionately likely to be those who have previously disclosed. Difficulties notwithstanding, the research supports the proposition that most sexual abuse is not disclosed during childhood, and that, indeed, disclosure is difficult even for older respondents, particularly so in cases of intrafamilial abuse.

Suggested Citation

Lyon, Thomas D., Abuse Disclosure: What Adults Can Tell. CHILD VICTIMS, CHILD OFFENDERS: PSYCHOLOGY AND LAW, B.L. Bottoms, G.S. Goodman, & C.J. Najdowski, eds., New York: Guilford; USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 09-21. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1404697

Thomas D. Lyon (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

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