Speaking With and Without Words-An Analysis of Foster Children's Expressions and Behaviors That Are Suggestive of Prior Sexual Abuse

Dorijn Wubs, Laura Batstra, Hans W. E. Grietens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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This exploratory study reports on foster children's informal self-disclosures of previously unknown histories of sexual abuse. Data were collected from 40 children's files, and an inductive thematic analysis of verbal and behavioral expressions was conducted. Findings suggest that foster children's self-disclosures can be fragmented, spontaneous, narrative, or triggered and often occur during everyday activities in the foster family. The children disclose their past by referring to the perpetrator or the severity of the abuse or by acting out, mostly by reenacting sexual abuse experiences. In addition, some children use childish vocabulary focusing on genitals or sexual acts they were involved in or want to be involved in. Last, some foster children seem to be linguistically challenged to disclose that a female person abused them or that they were forced to reciprocate sexually. This study adds to the understanding of the complex process of child sexual abuse disclosure in the context of foster care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-87
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Child Sexual Abuse
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2018


  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual/psychology
  • Child Behavior/psychology
  • Child, Foster/psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Disclosure
  • Verbal Behavior
  • TELL

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