Service providers’ understanding of cross-cultural differences in belief of myths about child sexual abuse: Results from a program evaluation study in Australia

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Sawrikar, P
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The scant research base on cross-cultural diversity may affirm universalist assumptions about the psychosocial experience of child sexual abuse (CSA). However, belief of myths about CSA may be higher in ethnic minority communities because of prohibitive social norms discussing any sexual matters which make them hard to challenge. Carers’ belief of myths about CSA are associated with poorer mental health among victims/survivors because they shift culpability from the perpetrator. Cultural and other barriers to help-seeking – which would allow emotional distress to be shared with relevant professionals (e.g. social workers, counselors, psychologists) – may further intensify this association. A professional development program addressing these complex issues was delivered and evaluated over six months using a mixed methods design (T1 n = 112, T2 n = 44). Trends consistent with the hypothesis were found: at follow-up, less service providers thought that belief of myths is cross-culturally equal, and more thought they were significantly more likely in ethnic minority communities. However, for Anglo service providers, the move may not just represent the program's effectiveness but also permission to be more confident about their practice wisdom; with ‘colour blind’ leanings toward equivalence recorded prior to the program. For ethnic minority service providers, this tacit knowledge appeared to strengthen after the program, but is also associated with mixed feelings of empathy and judgment; they understand the multiple oppressions they navigate which cause them to become isolated in their trauma, but concurrently wish they were more aware of CSA to be able to take more self-determined responsibility for it. Although the cross-wave sample size was small, the results contribute new and innovative empirical data and larger replication studies can substantiate the tentative findings. Overall, the results show that service providers in multicultural countries like Australia appreciate opportunities to discuss the links between myths about CSA, ethnic minority communities, and collectivism. In particular, safe professional spaces for ethnic minority service providers to debrief on internal conflict appears necessary so that positive flow-on effects are reaped by the clients for whom such training programs are really developed.

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Children and Youth Services Review

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© 2020 Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Licence ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, providing that the work is properly cited.

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Sawrikar, P, Service providers’ understanding of cross-cultural differences in belief of myths about child sexual abuse: Results from a program evaluation study in Australia, Children and Youth Services Review, 2020, 118, pp. 105391