Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sexual Abuse Accomodation Syndrome

Studies estimate that 30 % of people sexually abused as kids NEVER disclose the abuse to anyone, not even in adulthood. So great is the distorted psychological weight of shame and self-blame. When victims do report, they often do so many years after the abuse occurred. If the perpetrator was someone the kid trusted, such as a minister, disclosure of the abuse is even less likely.

Sexual Abuse Accomodation Syndrome is a model that is sometimes used to explain the hindrance to disclosure. It is not a diagnostic tool but rather a clinical tool to assist in putting abuse victim behavior in context. As explained in the 2004 John Jay study, the Syndrome is used in discussing those abused at ages younger than 18. And, contrary to what many might think, a couple studies indicate that older child sex abuse victims may be less likely to disclose than their younger counterparts. Why? Because the younger kids sometimes disclose accidentally, and because the older kids may be better able to "anticipate unsupportive reactions."

Here are the components of Sexual Abuse Accomodation Syndrome: Secrecy (the abuse occurs when the victim and perpetrator are alone, and the perpetrator encourages the victim to maintain secrecy); Helplessness (kids are obedient to adults and will usually obey the perpetrator who encourages secrecy); Entrapment and Accomodation (once the kid is helplessly entrenched in the abusive situation, he or she assumes responsibility for the abuse and begins to dissociate from it); Delayed Disclosure (because the victims who report child sexual abuse often wait long periods of time to disclose, their disclosures are subsequently questioned).

Sound familiar to some of you?

Happy St. Patrick's Day! The Irish endure. So do clergy abuse survivors. Keep on healing and raise heck when you can!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw Thomas Roberts's testimony of his sexual abuse in "Sins of the Father" on TV's Anderson Cooper. He did a beautiful job of relating and sharing such a painful and personal past. We were able to see these "accomodation syndrome" steps that you explain here. It may be frightening to think about but there is freedom when a victim speaks out and no longer keeps the abuse secret. Thank you for the great work you do, Christa, and for speaking out on behalf of victims everywhere.