Caregivers' perceptions of desensitization among sexually abused children
Grobbelaar, Riaan Martinus
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Children react differently to the traumatic incidence of sexual abuse. Some children develop symptomatic behaviours associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in reaction to sexual abuse, such as apathy, which is a form of desensitisation. Others appear less affected by the sexual abuse and may also be regarded as desensitised and possessing resilience. Incongruence thus exists, as the one may be taken incorrectly for the other. Many children enter alternative care settings after being sexually abused, and are cared for by caregivers other than their natural parents. These caregivers interact with the children regularly and their perceptions may provide valuable insight into desensitisation among these children. This study set out to explore caregivers' perceptions on desensitisation among children who had been sexually abused. The study is explorative and descriptive in nature and grounded in a qualitative design. Purposive sampling was used to form three focus groups. The focus group interviews yielded data that was transcribed and subjected to thematic analysis. The findings arrived at were written up, presented and discussed. The findings were recommended to be used to inform social workers and other members of the helping professions on how to approach and interact with caregivers of sexually abused children in the future, and to influence perceptions they might hold. Further recommendations were made to better design and implement future studies.