“Maybe I imagined it, maybe it really was all just childish play”: Complexity and ambiguity in survivors' perceptions of harmful preadolescent sexual behavior

Dafna Tener*, Laura I. Sigad, Carmit Katz, Roni Shimron, Eyal Harel, Noam Greenblum, Mor Shemesh, Yael Zooker Zabib

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Harmful preadolescent sexual behavior (HPSB) is an understudied phenomenon in the field of child sexual abuse (CSA). Objective: The purpose of the present study was to analyze and describe the experiences and perceptions of adult survivors of HPSB. Participants and setting: 16 survivors of HPSB were recruited as part of a purposeful sample. Their ages at the time of the study ranged from 21 to 50; they were Jewish-Israeli, secular, and Hebrew-speaking. Methods: Semi-structured interviews and qualitative thematic analysis were conducted based on a descriptive phenomenological-psychological approach. Results: Participants described elements of complexity in their perceptions of the “truthiness” of their memories and the mutuality of the HPSB experiences, as well as their primacy, seriousness, and life impact. They also described elements of support during disclosure, but mostly exposed the challenges and hardship involved, particularly the lack of legitimacy in exposing harmful sexual behavior perpetrated by other children. Conclusions: Both the HPSB experiences themselves and the subsequent disclosure contributed to the development of detached, mistrustful identities among the participants.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number105368
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Volume123
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Most interviews in this study were conducted by the first author's graduate and undergraduate students in social work, as part of their fulfillment of the requirements of a seminar on the topic. We are grateful to our students for their time, effort, dedication to this difficult topic, and, most importantly, for their help in giving voice to survivors of PAPSA, in some cases for the first time in their lives.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

Copyright © 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Child sexual abuse (CSA)
  • Harmful preadolescent sexual behavior (HPSB)
  • Harmful preadolescent sexual behavior disclosure
  • Peer sexual behavior
  • Survivors' perceptions
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Humans
  • Survivors
  • Child Abuse, Sexual/psychology
  • Disclosure
  • Child Abuse
  • Adult
  • Child

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