"Deaf ears and closed minds : do you hear the child's voice?" : exploring disclosures from the perspective of child rape victims.
Despite recent increases in public, media and research concern with the issue of child rape, not much is known about the disclosure of this phenomenon. This study focused on exploring disclosure from the perspective of child rape victims (i.e., elucidating the subjective meaning of disclosure for children, as well as exploring the circumstances, and factors that facilitate or hinder disclosure). The sampling frame included 16 cases of child rape (12 girls and 4 boys) in the age range 5-17 years old, with 12 years being the average age of the children. The process of thematic analysis revealed three broad thematic areas, as well as a number of dominant and sub-themes. The first broad thematic area, Pre-Disclosure, provides insight into the intrapersonal process children undergo in the aftermath of rape; the children's thoughts and anxieties in coming to understand that they have been raped; and the decision-making process they underwent prior to disclosing their rape experience(s). The second thematic area, Disclosure, provides insight into the children's lived experiences of disclosing their rape and of the disclosure process. At this point in the disclosure process, disclosure is not only experienced at the intrapersonal level, but is experienced in relation to others (interpersonal level). Lastly, Post-Disclosure, provides insight into the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intergroup/ institutional influences in the aftermath of disclosure that play a role in the child's feelings about having disclosed, their evaluation if disclosing was worthwhile, and their decision to engage in subsequent disclosures (i.e., to keep telling). The present study indicated that disclosure can best be conceptualised using the 'Tipping the Balance' model (London Family Court Clinic, 1995). This theoretical model employs a scale as a metaphor for the competing influences on a child who is sexually victimised, and proposes that a fragile balancing act precedes the decision to disclose (London Family Court Clinic, 1995). Such a decision is affected by competing pressures (intrapersonal, interpersonal and intergroup/ institutional), and by what the present study has identified as facilitators and inhibitors. In each child's case, the balance must tip so that the facilitators and perceived benefits outweigh the influence of the many factors which can inhibit disclosure (London Family Court Clinic, 1995). In addition, the decision to use the ecosystemic theory as a conceptual framework for the present research proved to be of heuristic value as it recognises the multiple levels of influence (intrapersonal, interpersonal, inter-group/institutional) that have an effect on the child.