Article

Pre-trial therapy for child witnesses in cases of sexual abuse: A scoping literature review

Published in: Journal of Psychology in Africa
Volume 27, issue 5, 2017, pages: 462–471
DOI: 10.1080/14330237.2017.1375201
Author(s): Ansie FouchéSocial Work Subject Group, Optentia Research Focus Area, South Africa, Daniël F. FouchéDepartment of Legal Sciences, South Africa

Abstract

Globally, child complainants of sexual abuse are expected to testify in criminal proceedings and in some countries therapy is delayed until after the child testifies as not to contaminate the child’s version of events. We carried out a scoping review of the literature on the provision of pre-trial therapy to child witnesses in cases of sexual abuse, to identity pertinent practice issues. We searched the following data bases: Academic FileOne, CINAHL, Cochrane Library, eBook (EBSCOHost); HeinOnline, OAPEN Library, PscyhARTICLS, PscyhINFO; SocINDEX, ScienceDirect, Google Scholar, and Scopus. We identified white and grey literature for the period spanning 1980 to 2016. Inclusion criteria included studies published in English, experimental studies, literature reviews, and policy documents relating to the provision of pre-trial therapy for child witnesses in criminal cases of sexual abuse. We discovered that an internationally accepted clear definition of pre-trial therapy is needed to ensure a common understanding thereof amongst all role players. A dearth of empirical studies exists and consequently the possible impact of different forms of therapeutic approaches on the child witness’ testimony is yet to be conclusively determined. In the interim, therapists and other role players should be acutely aware of the impact of different forms of therapy on the child witness’s testimony.

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