Not a happy story. A love story: Professional perceptions of love in families with child sexual abuse in two US mid-Atlantic Child Advocacy Centers

Abbie Newman*, Dafna Tener, Elizabeth H. Evans, Carmit Katz, Efrat Lusky-Weisrose, Yochay Nadan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Although research on child sexual abuse (CSA) has greatly evolved, studies revealing survivors' conflicting feelings towards their perpetrators and family members are scarce. Professionals' perceptions of love in intrafamilial CSA are often overlooked. Objective: The current study examined the perceptions of professionals working on CSA multidisciplinary teams (MDT). The research questions were: (1) How do professionals define love in families with CSA? (2) What are professionals' perceptions of parental love in families with CSA? (3) What are professionals' perceptions of love from the abused child towards their parents and siblings? (4) What are the differences between professionals' perceptions of love and those of the families they serve, and how do professionals deal with these different perceptions during interventions? Method: Five focus groups with a total of 34 child advocacy center (CAC) and MDT professionals from two CACs in the US mid-Atlantic region were conducted virtually and analyzed using a thematic approach. Results: The findings indicated that professionals recognized parental love at the center of familial child sexual abuse (FCSA) cases and its range from benevolent and healthy to maladaptive, offensive love. Professionals also recognized the mechanisms enabling children's love for both offending and non-offending parents and complex expressions of love between siblings, even when one sibling sexually abused another. Conclusions: This study highlights the importance of promoting discourse on love in cases of intrafamilial CSA. Recognizing and embracing the complexity of love bonds may empower the abused child and support their need to believe in their parents' love.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number106032
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Volume137
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Child sexual abuse (CSA)
  • Love in the context of abuse
  • Professionals' perceptions

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