Child Abuse: Betrayal and Disclosure

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Title: Child Abuse: Betrayal and Disclosure
Author: Foynes, M. Ming; Freyd, Jennifer J.; DePrince, Anne P.
Abstract: The present study examined the association between perpetrator relationship and disclosure latency (DL) for physical and emotional abuse using a survey methodology with a sample of 202 undergraduate participants. Based on Freyd's Betrayal Trauma Theory (1996), we predicted that abuse by a close perpetrator would be related to longer DL, because nondisclosure may serve as a protective coping mechanism in the same way as unawareness of abuse. BTT frames disclosure as a risk that poses a threat to the emotional needs of the child, without requiring the child's conscious awareness of the way in which the world operates. We found that closeness of perpetrator significantly predicts DL above and beyond other variables such as age at abuse onset, gender of survivor and abuse severity. Abuse by very close perpetrators was associated with a greater likelihood of first disclosure years following abuse, if disclosure ever occurred. While delayed disclosure may allow the attachment relationship to be sustained, it may also prolong abuse and prevent receipt of emotional, legal, or financial support. Since disclosure may result in the loss of important social relationships, it is important to address these risks in interventions geared toward encouraging disclosure to promote ethical intervention delivery.
Date: 2006-11

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