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Authors

Seán Stitt

Abstract

This paper is an attempt to raise the awareness of health and social care professions (both in practice and in academia) of the absence of any substantial, targeted support, counselling or advocacy services for non-offending mothers of sexually abused children and of the almost complete lack of any meaningful social scientific academic discourse on the nature and extent of the unique problems faced by such mothers. What little specific research literature that does exist on this issue has been generated in the U.S. and any generalised European commentaries on child sexual abuse that exist actually focus upon: (a) the child survivor of the abuse; (b) the perpetrators of the abuse and; (c) the mother as, either, partly to blame for the abuse or as being unworthy of consideration for independent client status themselves. METHOD: The paper will report on a series of focus group interviews carried out with a small sample of non-offending mothers of sexually abused children (n=12) and on responses to questionnaires completed by a sample of agencies working in the area of child sexual abuse (n=6). RESULTS: The interviews concluded that: non-offending mothers feel that they are viewed by relevant professionals as either partly to blame for the abuse or as a source of support for the abused children, not as being in need of support themselves; there are no intervention strategies in place to meet the specific needs of non-offending mothers. The responses from the questionnaires supported these findings. CONCLUSION: Professionals working with sexually abused children need to acknowledge that non-offending mothers are also victims and have their own needs for support and assistance which are separate and independent from the needs of the abused child. Academic researchers need to address the unique needs of such mothers to be treated as clients in their own right and not as, either, partial collaborators in the abuse or as being inconsequential.

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