Main Page
This Issue
Next Article
Previous Article

2000 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 5, No. 2
June 2000

Treatments for Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Following are approaches to treating child survivors of sexual abuse. Regardless of the mode of treatment, strengthening the relationship between the child and the nonoffending parent is critical for the child's recovery for both the short and long term (Cocoran, 1998).

Individual psychotherapy: covers a range of activities including play therapy, cognitive/behavioral therapy, expressive therapies, bibliotherapy, and psychopharmacology.

Group therapy: allows children to confront and work through experiences with a group of peers struggling with the same issues. This is powerful in the healing process, because the sexually abused child feels isolated from her peers. Sharing the experience in a group format can lessen this loneliness (Osmond, et al.).

Family intervention: because of the problems they often face, supporting abusing families must not be done alone, but through a treatment team consisting of a therapeutic caregiver, family therapist, co-therapist, clinical supervisor, and the child's therapist.

According to Hepworth and colleagues (1997), family intervention must strengthen marital coalitions, help family members define clear roles that do not blur generational boundaries, define inappropriate sexual behavior, and clarify the responsibilities of family members so they can keep within acceptable boundaries.

In cases of extra-familial abuse, the issues differ. Here it is critical to address the family's failure to protect the child, as well as survivor support to help the family avoid viewing the child as somehow "damaged" by her exposure to sexual abuse (Osmond, et al.).

Out-of-home placement: Family-based foster care provides the child a rich opportunity for observing and participating in a non-abusive family setting where relationships are not based on the commodity of sexuality. Residential therapy provides an out-of-home care environment where ordinary living experiences become vehicles for planned change.


Corcoran, J. (1998). In defense of mothers of sexual abuse victims. Families in Society, 79(4), 358-369.

Hepworth, D., Rooney, R. H., & Larsen, J. (1997). Direct social work practise theory and skills. 5th Edition. Pacific Grove: Brooks Cole Publishing.

Osmond, M., Durham, D., Leggett, A., & Keating, J. (1998). Treating the aftermath of sexual abuse: A handbook for working with children in care. Washington, D.C.: Child Welfare League of America.

2000 Jordan Institute for Families