Womens Support Project

A study exploring the support needs of sexually abused children, young people and non abusing parents. 2004

The impetus for this research project was the observations originating from work carried out over a number of years by the Women’s Support Project in Glasgow. Workers repeatedly encountered gaps in understanding and awareness of the complex and often diverse needs of children, young people, their carers and non abusing parents in the aftermath of child sexual abuse.

It has since become apparent that this locally identified gap in empirical research is symptomatic of a wider failure to conduct needs driven exploratory research where child sexual abuse is concerned. For example in “Child abuse and neglect”, The International Journal (Vol 27, No 12, Dec 2003) MacMillan, Jamieson and Walsh (p1397) highlight the need for greater understanding of the impact of child protection services on abused children and to what extent intervention is associated with improved outcomes. They are of the opinion that “Employing qualitative research techniques could fill some of the gaps that exist in understanding the experiences of children and families who come into contact with the child welfare system” (p1406). The authors cite Zellman and Faller’s (1996) observation that those who concur with “the assumption that child abuse only has to be identified to be ‘cured,’” are mistaken in this belief. The need to discover more therefore exists. This qualitative project reveals discoveries which should have relevance not only on a local scale, but also to audiences elsewhere. The type of research methodology employed ensures the focus is placed upon patterns of behaviour which are deeply intertwined in the social construction of daily life and, taking into account varied contexts, are nevertheless likely to have relatively robust transferability.

Unmet needs were the catalyst for this work. In order to develop a deeper understanding of the issues and explore them effectively it was decided to take a holistic perspective. Children and young people, survivors of child sexual abuse together with a group of non abusing parents were the focus of the data generation. In addition a diverse cohort of relevant workers from a range of agencies, statutory and voluntary, was consulted. A flexible yet rigorous approach underpinned the research.

Funding criteria predetermined the overall sample target size. The project aimed to interview 40 respondents in total. 41 in depth interviews were achieved. 19 workers participated. 13 children and young people and 9 non abusing parents agreed to take part, all mothers.

To download the complete study click here (Format:PDF, Size:600kb)




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