Disclosure of physical, emotional and sexual child abuse, help-seeking and access to abuse response services in two South African Provinces

Franziska Meinck*, Lucie Cluver, Heidi Loening-Voysey, Rachel Bray, Jenny Doubt, Marisa Casale, Lorraine Sherr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Physical, emotional and sexual child abuse are major problems in South Africa. This study investigates whether children know about post-abuse services, if they disclose and seek services, and what the outcomes of help-seeking behaviour are. It examines factors associated with request and receipt of services. Confidential self-report questionnaires were completed by adolescents aged 10–17 (n = 3515) in South Africa. Prevalence of frequent (>weekly) physical abuse was 7.4%, frequent emotional abuse 12.4%, and lifetime contact sexual abuse 9.0%. 98.6% could name one suitable confidante or formal service for abuse disclosure, but only 20.0% of abuse victims disclosed. Of those, 72% received help. Most common confidantes were caregivers and teachers. Of all abuse victims, 85.6% did not receive help due to non-disclosure or inactivity of services, and 14.4% received help: 4.9% from formal health or social services and 7.1% through community vigilante action. Emotional abuse, sexual abuse and female gender were associated with higher odds of help-seeking. While children in South Africa showed high knowledge of available services, access to and receipt of formal services among abused children was low. Notably fewer children received help from formal services than through community vigilante action. Urgent action is needed to improve service access for child abuse victims.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-106
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology, Health and Medicine
Volume22
Issue numberS1
Early online date19 Jan 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

Keywords

  • child abuse
  • children
  • emotional abuse
  • physical abuse
  • service access
  • sexual abuse
  • victim services

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