Between Scylla and Charybdis: A literature review of sexual abuse allegations in divorce proceedings

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Abstract

In this study, international literature is reviewed on allegations of child sexual abuse (CSA) during divorce proceedings. It aims to build upon the existing knowledge on this topic by combining empirical findings from various disciplines. The study attempts to answer four research questions that focus on (1) the prevalence of CSA allegations in divorce procedures; (2) the response of family court judges; (3) the ratio of founded and unfounded allegations of CSA under these circumstances; and (4) the (possible) consequences of the false positives and false negatives in legal decision making for the children and parents involved. The literature study shows that civil judges often seek professional help. The judge generally tends to (temporarily) stop contact between accused parent and child during a possible investigation. Additionally, there is a general concern about the many actors involved in such cases. It can also be carefully assumed that one in seven to eight allegations is not founded. It is concluded that civil judges have to make important decisions under difficult circumstances: there is little to no evidence, no guidelines, external help lengthens the trial, and there are serious consequences to false positives and false negatives in legal decision-making. Literature is surprisingly scarce and generally outdated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1373-1384
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology
Volume6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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