Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Aggression and Violent Behavior 52 (2020) 101418

doi 10.1016/j.avb.2020.101418


Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Ltd. Used by permission.


Mental health treatment is a critical part of an effective and compassionate response to the disclosure of child sexual abuse (CSA). Given the vast negative consequences for children and families following CSA, engagement in treatment can benefit youth and their non-offending caregivers. Yet, these families face unique barriers to treatment initiation, adherence, and effectiveness. The identification of these barriers allows clinicians, researchers, and policy makers to increase treatment utilization, engagement, and value. The current review and its recommendations derive from the existing literature combined with knowledge gained from a clinical research team with more than 20 years of experience offering a treatment program for CSA survivors and their non-offending family members. The review organizes barriers around factors related to individual characteristics of children and caregivers, perceptions and beliefs commonly held following CSA, and challenging family interactions in the context of individual and group treatment for CSA. Finally, barriers related to systemic and societal factors are examined given the importance of understanding the legal and cultural context in which families seek and engage in treatment. Recommendations for further research, suggestions for clinicians, and considerations for policy change to decrease the identified treatment barriers for families impacted by CSA are provided.