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Journal Article


Malloy LC, Sutherland JE, Cauffman E. Child Abuse Negl. 2019; ePub(ePub): ePub.


Psychology and Social Behavior, School of Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine, 4308 Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway, Irvine, CA 92697, United States.


(Copyright © 2019, Elsevier Publishing)






BACKGROUND: Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is over-represented among incarcerated girls and women. In order to inform effective methods of response, they represent a critical group for better understanding disclosure processes.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of the current study was to assess the CSA and CSA disclosure experiences of incarcerated female adolescents and young adults. PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: Participants were 94 serious female offenders, ages 15-24 (M = 18.72, SD = 1.94), incarcerated in a secure juvenile facility.

METHOD: In one-on-one interviews, participants answered questions about abuse characteristics, whether they had previously disclosed, to whom they had disclosed and after how long, and reasons for prior disclosure or nondisclosure.

RESULTS: Over half of the sample (51.8%,n = 44) reported experiencing CSA. Most individuals who reported a CSA history had previously disclosed (79.5%, n = 35), with approximately equal proportions claiming to disclose within one week (40%) and after a year or years (45.8%). However, 20.5% (n = 9) claimed that our study interview was their first disclosure. Several reasons for their disclosure patterns were endorsed: Most commonly feelings of shame or embarrassment prevented disclosure (56%) and no longer wanting to keep the abuse a secret motivated disclosure (44%).

CONCLUSIONS: Although many incarcerated girls and women share a history of CSA, our results indicate that the abuse and disclosure experiences of incarcerated females are diverse. Understanding their disclosure patterns can inform mental health services, rehabilitation, and professional interviewing strategies that may facilitate disclosure (e.g., forensic interviews, facility intake interviews).

Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Language: en


Child sexual abuse; Disclosure; Female offenders; Incarcerated girls


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