Compassion and scepticism in child sexual abuse; some historical aspects and explanations

H.E.M. Baartman

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The sexual abuse of children is the subject of heated social debate. The general outrage with which this theme was placed on the public agenda in the 1970s has, to a considerable extent, made room for doubts about the reliability of children as witnesses and of professionals as their informants. History shows a parallel to this pendular movement in late nineteenth-century France; initial anxiety concerning the magnitude and seriousness of the sexual abuse of children, first expressed by Tardieu in the mid-19th century, turned later into scepticism. This article describes some of the aspects that play a role in the difficulty which society has in taking child sexual abuse seriously: the isolation of sexuality, ambivalences in the societal image of children, the status of parents and that of professionals. © 1998, A B Academic Publishers. Printed in Great Britain. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-202
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Review of Victimology
Publication statusPublished - 1998


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