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Deceptive veneer of child abuse.

Some children who appear to have been sexually abused nonetheless deny that any abuse has occurred and show no signs of trauma-related problems, researchers find. These cases defy the widespread view that sexual abuse invariably produces an obvious psychological aftermath (SN: 9/25/93, p.202).

"Symptom lists can't always distinguish cases of sexual abuse in children," asserts Diana M. Elliott of the University of California, Los Angeles, Medical Center.

Elliott and her coworkers administered a 54-item trauma questionnaire to 399 children, age 8 to 15, evaluated for evidence of sexual abuse by a team of physicians and clinicians experienced in interviewing abuse victims.

Half of the youngsters provided full or partial disclosure of what the team considered actual sexual abuse, based on evidence such as physical signs and recovery of pornographic pictures taken of the child. About 7 percent made no mention of sexual abuse, even though evidence for such abuse existed. Another 5 percent recanted past reports of sexual abuse despite what the team considered to be the presence of abuse.

The rest of the children either had not been sexually abused or showed what the team called "unclear" evidence of abuse.

Children who did not cite their apparent sexual abuse exhibited virtually no traumatic symptoms, in stark contrast to those who disclosed their abuse.

"I don't think we'll ever find a litmus test for identifying victims of sexual abuse," contends coinvestigator John Briere of the University of Southern California School of Medicine in Los An les.
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Title Annotation:some sexually abused children show no traumatic indications of having been abused
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Aug 27, 1994
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