Predictors of skeptical responses to disclosures of childhood sexual abuse

Melissa de Roos, Shelby Curtis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) may be met with skeptical responses when they disclose their experience. The fear of such a response means that most victims delay telling anyone about the abuse. The aim of this study was to explore how contextual factors of abuse such as victim gender and age, perpetrator gender, and victim–perpetrator relationship affect a response to CSA. Further, we explored what personality traits may predict a skeptical response. An online questionnaire with 357 undergraduate students asked participants to read a vignette describing CSA, and to indicate the extent to which they believed the vignette, whether they blamed the victim or perpetrator, and what punishment they would recommend for the perpetrator. Results indicated that older victims were less likely to be believed and more likely to be blamed than younger victims. Further, we found more blame was placed on a perpetrator of intrafamilial abuse compared with extrafamilial abuse, but only if the perpetrator was male. Female perpetrators were punished less harshly than male perpetrators, but female intrafamilal perpetrators received harsher punishment than female extrafamilial perpetrators. No such effect was found for male perpetrators. Openness to Experience was associated with a more supportive response to CSA, as was Agreeableness. Implications and future directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)808-822
Number of pages15
JournalViolence and Victims
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright 2021 Springer Publishing Company, LLC.


Dive into the research topics of 'Predictors of skeptical responses to disclosures of childhood sexual abuse'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this