We compile citations and summaries of about 400 new articles every week.
RSS Feed

HELP: Tutorials | FAQ
CONTACT US: Contact info

Search Results

Journal Article


Roesler TA, Wind TW. J. Interpers. Violence 1994; 9(3): 327-338.


(Copyright © 1994, SAGE Publishing)






VioLit summary:

The major aim of this article by Roesler and Wind was to examine the circumstances surrounding the disclosure of childhood incest among adult women.

The authors conducted a primary analysis of quasi-experimental, cross-sectional data that were collected to understand the circumstances surrounding the process of child sexual abuse disclosure. The sample included 228 women who had reported experiences of sexual abuse by a family member (by blood or by marriage) before age 16. Participants were obtained after they had responded to Marilyn Van Derbur Atler's disclosure on national television of her own incestuous experiences. The mean age of respondents was 40.6 (SD=11), the range of ages was 18-73 years. The majority of participants were White (91.8%). Mean education level was 13.9 years (SD=2.5). Participants were mailed a questionnaire which included statements related to demographic information, the nature of the abuse, the nature of the perpetrator, who was first told, and the reaction of that person who heard the disclosure. Open-ended questions asked participants to state the reasons they postponed disclosure and the reasons for finally disclosing. These responses were categorized. The authors employed a nine item reaction scale developed by Moor (1991) and Silvern (1992), to measure the reaction the respondent received for disclosing the abuse. Statement responses were measured on a four point Likert scale where options ranged from "not at all true" to "very true" (Cronbach's alpha = .91). The authors stated that some item responses were reported as positive ("somewhat true" or "very true") or negative. The authors hypothesized that disclosing sexual abuse in childhood would be different from, and the reaction to disclosing less sympathetic than, disclosing as an adult.

The authors reported that the majority of the abuse was long-standing (M=7.6 years; SD=6). The average age of abuse was 6 years (SD=3.3), and age average of final abuse was 13.8 years. Mean age of first disclosure was 25.9 years (SD=14.3). The majority of women were abused by males and more than half the offenders were the women's biological fathers (53.1%). Abuse was disclosed by one third of victims before age 18. The authors reported that when the victims were children, parents were more likely to be the first to be told about the abuse (41.8%), followed by a friend (22.8%). 16.5% of respondents told other relatives first. As adults, disclosure was directed towards friends or intimate partners (45.4%), or therapists (33.1%), or parents (10.8%), or other relatives (10.8%). A one-way anova revealed a significant difference (p<0.0001) in age of disclosure dependent upon the relationship of the respondent to their confidant. Parents were told at 14.6 years (SD=8.8), friends/other relatives were told at 25.9 years (SD=13.3), and therapists at 37.6 years (SD=10.5). A one-way anova revealed that the reaction of the victim's confidant could be predicted by the type of relationship the victim had with the confidant (p<0.0001). Planned comparisons showed that therapists and other non-family members reacted more supportively to the abuse disclosure than did the parents of the abused victim. 53% of women who reported the abuse before 18 years stated that their parent responded angrily to their disclosure. 51.6% reported that they were ignored by the parent and 53.3% reported that their parent blamed them for the incidents of sexual abuse. Disclosure at a younger age was reported by the authors to be predictive of less supportive reactions by confidants (p<0.001). However, the authors also stated that prediction was confounded by the finding that children were more likely to tell parents, and adults were more likely to disclose to friends or therapists. When age was controlled using ANCOVA, the reaction of the confidant was still able to be predicted (p>0.001). The authors stated that the younger the child was when disclosure was made, the more likely it was that a negative response to the disclosure would be received, whether the confidant was a parent or a non-family member. The authors stated that among respondents who disclosed before 18 years, 51.9% reported that the abuse continued for more than one year after disclosure. 28.5% of respondents reported that they had repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse. Victims' reasons for not revealing incest included: 1) fear for safety (33.3%), 2) shame/guilt (32.9%), 3) repression of memories (28.5%). Most frequent reasons for disclosing included: 1) wanted to heal (19.2%), 2) wanted to feel safe in a relationship (14.3%), and 3) retrieved memories (12.9%).
The authors stated that the negative reactions by family members who heard the disclosures of incest, most probably occurred as a result of their fear of the family changing. The authors reported that the reasons for repression of abuse was not discernible from these reports. However, the authors suggested that repression could be a protective response.
The authors reported the limitations of the study as: 1) the information obtained was self-report, 2) it was a self selected, non-random sample, and 3) 68% of the perpetrators were fathers or stepfathers and could, therefore, represent worst case scenarios.
The authors concluded by stating that incest victims received negative reactions to their disclosure, because the telling of incest stands to significantly disrupt the lives of those who hear of the abuse.

The authors recommended that the community acknowledge, and receive, the disclosure of incest positively, not negatively.

(CSPV Abstract - Copyright © 1992-2007 by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, Institute of Behavioral Science, Regents of the University of Colorado)

Adult Female
Adult Survivor
Abuse Disclosure
Child Abuse Effects
Child Abuse Victim
Child Sexual Abuse Effects
Child Sexual Abuse Victim
Child Female
Child Victim
Childhood Experience
Childhood Victimization
Domestic Violence Effects
Domestic Violence Victim
Female Victim
Incest Effects
Incest Victim
Sexual Assault Victim
Sexual Assault Effects
Psychological Victimization Effects
Long-Term Effects


All SafetyLit records are available for automatic download to Zotero & Mendeley