Psychology
Vol.06 No.11(2015), Article ID:59077,11 pages
10.4236/psych.2015.611134

Between Scylla and Charybdis: A Literature Review of Sexual Abuse Allegations in Divorce Proceedings

Anne E. Smit*, Masha V. Antokolskaia, Catrien C. J. H. Bijleveld

Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Email: *a.e.smit@vu.nl

Copyright © 2015 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Received 8 June 2015; accepted 21 August 2015; published 25 August 2015

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. We attempted 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 vs. 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 an investigation. Additionally, there is a general concern about the many actors involved in such cases. It can also be ca professionals. Thoennes and Pearson (1988) conclude with some recommendations for the evaluation report including taking more family dynamics into account. Bala et al. (2007) pose detailed recommendations for the child, the accusing and the accused parent, and whoever represents these parties. They conclude by saying that some of the recommendations made might be too expensive, and many parents cannot afford the appropriate representation or professionals. Therefore, the authors suggest that the community should provide more support for these services and cases.

Lastly, a non-empirical Dutch article (Van Leuven, 2002) , written by a judge and mediator, gives explicit recommendations for judges on how to respond to CSA allegations in divorce cases. The author bases these recommendations on his personal experiences and are extensions of the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) as introduced by Gardner (1985) . Van Leuven highlights the importance of recognizing that even though a CSA allegation during a divorce could call for a response within a public law case, it will have an impact on the privacy of the family. Van Leuven recommends stimulating the interaction within the family after an allegation has been made (especially between the partners). According to Van Leuven, a forensic expert should evaluate the case, and when the allegation is most likely founded, a criminal case should be started. If the allegation is most likely made due to relationship and communication problems, it is very important that the child remains to have contact with both parents, in order to avoid the development of parental alienation. If this is not possible, the child should reside with the parent that is the most emotionally stable, which is most likely the accused parent. This could be seen as a paradoxical move, although according to Gardner this is the only way to prevent or cure PAS (Gardner, 1985) .

All of these recommendations are useful to some extent, although empirical research is needed in order to assess their “success”. Our research indicates that scarce research has been conducted on this topic and therefore there is a lack of systematic knowledge. However, we acknowledge that our review was limited in a number of ways. First, we were restricted by the language, and could only search in the electronic databases for English studies. We were partly able to solve this problem by consulting experts from non-English speaking countries. Second, relevant studies that have not been included in electronic databases were not found. Although this was a limitation to our research, the lack of availability of (especially older) studies is a problem that is faced by others as well.

Fund

This research is financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

Cite this paper

Anne E.Smit,Masha VAntokolskaia,Catrien C. J. H.Bijleveld, (2015) Between Scylla and Charybdis: A Literature Review of Sexual Abuse Allegations in Divorce Proceedings. Psychology,06,1373-1384. doi: 10.4236/psych.2015.611134

References

  1. 1. Afifi, T. O., Boman, J., Fleisher, W., & Sareen, J. (2009). The Relationship between Child Abuse, Parental Divorce, and Lifetime Mental Disorders and Suicidality in a Nationally Representative Adult Sample. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33, 139-147.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2008.12.009

  2. 2. Alink, L., IJzendoorn, R. V., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M., Pannebakker, F., Vogels, T., & Euser, S. (2011). Kindermis-handeling in Nederland anno 2010: De tweede Nationale Prevalentiestudie Mishandeling van kinderen en jeugdigen (NPM-2010): Casimir Leiden.

  3. 3. Amato, P. R., & Cheadle, J. (2005). The Long Reach of Divorce: Divorce and Child Well-Being across Three Generations. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 191-206.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0022-2445.2005.00014.x

  4. 4. Bala, N. M. C., & Schuman, J. (1999). Allegations of Sexual Abuse When Parents Have Separated. Canadian Family Law Quarterly, 17, 191-243.

  5. 5. Bala, N. M. C., Mitnick, M., Trocme, N., & Houston, C. (2007). Sexual Abuse Allegations and Parental Separation: Smokescreen or Fire? Journal of Family Studies, 13, 26-56.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.5172/jfs.327.13.1.26

  6. 6. Bow, J. N., Quinnell, F. A., Zaroff, M., & Assemany, A. (2002). Assessment of Sexual Abuse Allegations in Child Custody cases. Professional Psychology-Research and Practice, 33, 566-575.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0735-7028.33.6.566

  7. 7. Brown, T., Frederico, M., Hewitt, L., & Sheehan, R. (2000). Revealing the Existence of Child Abuse in the Context Of marital Breakdown and Custody and Access Disputes. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24, 849-859.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0145-2134(00)00140-X

  8. 8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014). Marriage and Divorce.
    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/marriage-divorce.htm

  9. 9. Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (2013). Echtscheiding; leeftijdsverschil, kinderen, geboorteland, huwelijksduur.
    http://statline.cbs.nl/StatWeb/publication/?DM=SLNL&&PA=60060ned

  10. 10. Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (2014a). Huwelijksontbindingen; door echtscheiding en door overlijden.
    http://statline.cbs.nl/Statweb/publication/?VW=T&DM=SLNL&PA=37425ned&D1=a&D2=0,10,20,30,40,50,(l-1)-l&HD=150512-1546&HDR=G1&STB=T

  11. 11. Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (2014b). Echtscheidingsprocedures, 1993-2013.
    http://statline.cbs.nl/Statweb/publication/?DM=SLNL&PA=37192&D1=0-7&D2=a&HDR=G1&STB=T&VW=T

  12. 12. Corwin, D. L., Berliner, L., Goodman, G., Goodwin, J., & White, S. (1987). Child Sexual Abuse and Custody Disputes No Easy Answers. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2, 91-105.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/088626087002001006

  13. 13. Eurostat (2014). Crude Divorce Rate.
    http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&language=en&pcode=tps00013&plugin=0

  14. 14. Faller, K. C. (1991). Possible Explanations for Child Sexual Abuse Allegations in Divorce. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 61, 86-91.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0079227

  15. 15. Fosco, G. M., DeBoard, R. L., & Grych, J. H. (2007). Making Sense of Family Violence: Implications of Children’s Appraisals of Interparental Aggression for Their Short- and Long-Term Functioning. European Psychologist, 12, 6-16.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1027/1016-9040.12.1.6

  16. 16. Gardner, R. A. (1985). Recent Trends in Divorce and Custody Litigation. Paper Presented at the Academy Forum.

  17. 17. Green, A. H. (1986). True and False Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Child-Custody Disputes. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 25, 449-456.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0002-7138(10)60001-5

  18. 18. Holt, S., Buckley, H., & Whelan, S. (2008). The Impact of Exposure to Domestic Violence on Children and Young People: A Review of the Literature. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32, 797-810.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2008.02.004

  19. 19. McGraw, J. M., & Smith, H. A. (1992). Child Sexual Abuse Allegations Amidst Divorce and Custody Proceedings. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 1, 49-62.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J070v01n01_04

  20. 20. Molnar, B. E., Buka, S. L., & Kessler, R. C. (2001). Child Sexual Abuse and Subsequent Psychopathology: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey. American Journal of Public Health, 91, 753-760.

  21. 21. Myers, J. E. B. (1990). Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse in Custody and Visitation Litigation: Recommendations for Improved Fact Finding and Child Protection. Journal of Family Law, 28, 1-41.

  22. 22. Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (2014). Family Dissolution and Children.
    http://www.oecd.org/els/soc/SF_3_2_Family_dissolution_and_children_Oct2014.pdf

  23. 23. Rechtspraak (2012). Geen straf voor beschuldigen ex-man in tv-programma Zembla.
    http://www.rechtspraak.nl/Organisatie/Rechtbanken/Zeeland-West-Brabant/Nieuws/Pages/Geen-straf-voor-beschuldigen-ex-man-in-tv-programma-Zembla.aspx

  24. 24. Rhoades, H., & Boyd, S. B. (2004). Reforming Custody Laws: A Comparative Study. International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, 18, 119-146.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/lawfam/18.2.119

  25. 25. Stoltenborgh, M., van IJzendoorn, M. H., Euser, E. M., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J. (2011). A Global Perspective on Child Sexual Abuse: Meta-Analysis of Prevalence around the World. Child Maltreatment, 16, 79-101.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1077559511403920

  26. 26. Thoennes, N., & Pearson, J. (1988). Summary of Findings from Sexual Abuse Allegations Project. In B. Nicholson (Ed.), Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody and Visitation Cases (pp. 1-19). Washington DC: National Legal Resources Center for Child Advocacy and Protection.

  27. 27. Thoennes, N., & Tjaden, P. G. (1990). The Extent, Nature, and Validity of Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody Visitation Disputes. Child Abuse & Neglect, 14, 151-163.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0145-2134(90)90026-P

  28. 28. Trickett, P. K., Noll, J. G., & Putnam, F. W. (2011). The Impact of Sexual Abuse on Female Development: Lessons from a Multigenerational, Longitudinal Research Study. Development and Psychopathology, 23, 453-476.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0954579411000174

  29. 29. Trocmé, N. M., Tourigny, M., MacLaurin, B., & Fallon, B. (2003). Major Findings from the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27, 1427-1439.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2003.07.003

  30. 30. Trocmé, N., & Bala, N. (2005). False Allegations of Abuse and Neglect When Parents Separate. Child Abuse & Neglect, 29, 1333-1345. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2004.06.016

  31. 31. Valk, I. V. D., Spruijt, E., de Goede, M., Maas, C., & Meeus, W. (2005). Family Structure and Problem Behavior of Adolescents and Young Adults: A Growth-Curve Study. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34, 533-546.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10964-005-8841-8

  32. 32. Van Leuven, C. A. R. M. (2002). De relationele aanpak voorop bij incestaangiften na scheiding. TREMA, 4, 169-172.

  33. 33. Wet van 27 november 2008 tot wijziging van Boek 1 van het Burgerlijk Wetboek en het Wetboek van Burgerlijke Rechtsvordering in verband met het bevorderen van voortgezet ouderschap na scheiding en het afschaffen van de mogelijkheid tot het omzetten van een huwelijk in een geregistreerd partnerschap. (2009). Stb. 500. Inwerkingtreding op 1 maart 2009, Stb. 2009, 56.

  34. 34. Zarb, L. H. (1994). Allegations of Childhood Sexual Abuse in Custody and Access Disputes: What Care Is in the Best Interests of the Child? Canadian Journal of Family Law, 12, 91-114.

  35. 35. Zembla (2009). Verdachte vaders.
    http://zembla.vara.nl/seizoenen/2009/afleveringen/24-05-2009

NOTES

*Corresponding author.