Creative Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Challenges and Dilemmas

By Sue Richardson; Heather Bacon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Pre-trial therapy for children
who have been sexually abused

Tink Palmer

This chapter is based on my experience of managing a therapeutic unit for sexually abused children for five years. It argues that it is in the interests of justice that child victims of sexual abuse can receive therapeutic intervention prior to giving evidence in a criminal trial. The rationale for such intervention, the respective fears of prosecutors and therapists, and a model of working within an acceptable framework and protocol are described. The final section considers the research outcomes of offering therapy to child witnesses prior to their giving evidence in criminal proceedings. The research covers the period December 1994 to January 2000 (Webster, Palmer and Hughes 2001).


Connections with Cleveland

The therapeutic unit was initially established in 1987 as the Child Resource Centre in Middlesbrough General Hospital at the instigation of Dr Marietta Higgs, Dr Geoffrey Wyatt and Sue Richardson, ‘in response to the crisis of referrals of children who had suffered sexual abuse within the Cleveland area’ (Barnardo’s 1998, p.7). Although it is a sad reflection that such resources are needed by children, the unit represents for me a vindication of the beliefs of those of us who were working in Cleveland circa 1987; namely, that there are many children in the community who have been and are being sexually abused, and who need rescuing by safe adults. It is still difficult for many children to speak out about their abusive experiences, but when they do, or an adult does on their behalf, they need help in making sense of what has happened to them. All children currently living in the Cleveland area can avail themselves of such a service from the Barnardo’s unit.

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