What is it about?

The present study aims at describing the psychological complaints reported, as a part ofthe criminal investigation process, by the victims of sexual abuse as a part of the criminalinvestigation process, without attempting at reaching a medical diagnosis; and it discussesthe relation of these reports with variables such as victim’s gender, age and relation tothe offender, type and duration of abuse, and parental marital status of the victim. Data isobtained from the statements of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) victims under the age of 15,as taken by Istanbul Juvenile Justice Department between the years 2009 and 2012. Thesample consists of 175 cases with a total of 202 victim statements. Through the use of con-tent analysis, the main and sub-categories of themes of the statements were determined.By means of the evaluation of the psychological condition of victims, we evaluated themin two categories: psychological complaints including self-harm and risk taking behaviorsand psychological complaints with no self-harm and risk taking behaviors. The statisticalanalyses yield significant relations between the psychological complaints and children’sparental marital status. Analysis of initial statements of sexual abuse victims is importantas it may greatly contribute to professionals diagnosing and treating psychological com-plaints of these victims. It is essential that victims of sexual abuse should receive immediatepsychological support starting with the criminal investigation process You could read it: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301829775_Psychological_complaints_reported_by_sexually_abused_children_during_criminal_investigations_Istanbul_example

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Why is it important?

Most of the studies in the literature examining the effects of CSA are conducted with samples of sexually abused childrenand adolescents receiving support and psychological treatment following the abuse. However, the phenomenon of CSA is an,inevitably, juridical case as well as a clinical one. Narratives and statements of the parties involved in CSA, namely the victim,the offender(s), witnesses, and victim’s parents are complementary and important elements for criminal investigation ofCSA. Victim reports are especially critical in this process (Gonultas & Akduman, 2016; Hershkowitz, Lanes, & Lamb, 2007) andthe determination of the abuse; furthermore, they play a significant role in the subsequent processes (further investigativeprocesses, court hearings, psychological treatment and rehabilitation) (American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on ChildAbuse & Neglect, 1999; Lamb, Sternberg, & Esplin, 1998). From this perspective, the initial statements of the victims, i.e.their narratives, are critical. When victims are providing information about the abuse and the abuser during the process ofinvestigation, they, also, report the psychological symptoms they started to experience following the CSA. Our understandingthat these complaints were similar to the findings of clinical studies in the literature was the starting point of our study.The purpose of the present study is to investigate the psychological symptoms, as defined by the children themselves,who are the victims of CSA, during victim statements; and to analyze the relation of these symptoms to victim’s age and gender, type and duration of abuse, offender–victim relationship, and marital status of victim’s parents. The study aims atcontributing to the literature of CSA by adopting a different approach in addressing this phenomenon, and by providingsuggestions to the professionals in the field.


To sum up, for the findings of the present study on self-harm behaviors, it is possible to argue that more attention needs tobe drawn on CSA victims when the abuse involves penetration, and if the victim is coming from a single-parent household;however the results failed to show any difference in self-harm behaviors in relation to the gender and the age of the CSAvictim.In this context, we can say that the findings of the present study indicate two significant suggestions. Firstly, it needsensuring that the victim of CSA will benefit from psychological-psychiatric help immediately and effectively as soon as (s)heenters the crime investigative process. In other words, it is necessary to expand the substructures rendering these servicesin a way that can thoroughly respond to scientific and practical needs of both the victim and the justice system. In order tobe able to meet the psychological needs of the CSA victim, professionals taking part in the investigative process should bein close contact and cooperation with the families of CSA victims, as familial support is of utmost importance in coping withthe trauma of CSA.Secondly, professionals such as psychiatrics, psychologists and social workers who play a key role in the process of clinicalevaluation and treatment of CSA victim, should pay special attention to investigative files. These files document the initialaccounts of the CSA victim, and, therefore, may constitute additional value for these professionals. For these reasons, it isnecessary to ensure legal and bureaucratic conveniences in order to entirely support the coordination of relevant units

PhD Burak Mirac Gonultas
Cumhuriyet Universitesi

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This page is a summary of: Psychological complaints reported by sexually abused children during criminal investigations: Istanbul example, Child Abuse & Neglect, June 2016, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2016.04.010.
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