Journal Articles on Child and Ritual Abuse – Laurie Matthew

August 19, 2020 § Leave a comment

Journal Articles on Child and Ritual Abuse – Laurie Matthew

Laurie Matthew, Ian Barrow & Ann Hodson (2018): Perspectives of Young Child Abuse Survivors on Confidentiality: An Exploratory Literature Review, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, DOI 10.1080/10538712.2018.1534918


The current systematic narrative literature review sought to discover the views of young child sexual abuse (CSA) survivors, unknown to child protection services, on confidentiality. Due to the paucity of research on young CSA survivors, the review was widened to include users of sexual health services. Seventeen databases were searched, and results were refined by reading titles and abstracts, followed by full text. Analysis involved an exploratory interpretist approach to identify conceptual themes and research methodologies. Fifteen published papers were identified. Research methods were narrow and included surveys, interviews, and focus groups, with limited youth participation. In addition to the theme of confidentiality essential to this study, themes identified included – needing accurate information about services, the importance of someone non-judgemental to talk to, control over decisions affecting their lives, and better access to services. Studies indicated young people were fearful of child protection involvement. In conclusion, studies suggest young survivors unknown to child protection services need a higher level of confidential services and more control of their information. Further research involving young survivors in participatory methods is needed to explore issues of confidentiality, survivor participation, and fear of child protection agencies.


The current review identified confidentiality as a significant issue for young survivors unknown to child protection services. Studies indicated that the parameters of confidentiality from services were often ambiguous. The importance of being believed, having someone non-judgemental, and confidential to talk to, along with time to build trust were recurring findings. Analysis of studies suggested a mistrust of authorities, fear of consequences,lack of information, shame, embarrassment, and fear of losing of control, inhibited young people from talking to child protection services. Instead, young people preferred support and information from friends and relatives. Methodologically, the review found that few studies asked young people’s views on confidentiality and none involved active participation as researchers. For those studies that did seek young people’s views, methods used covered a narrow range of traditional approaches.

Laurie Matthew & Ian G. Barron (2015) Participatory Action Research on Help-Seeking Behaviors of Self-Defined Ritual Abuse Survivors: A Brief Report, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 24:4, 429-443, DOI: 10.1080/10538712.2015.1029104

The existence of ritual abuse is the subject of much debate. Ritual abuse survivor perceptions of seeking help have not been explored, and studies have yet to utilize self-defined survivors as collaborative researchers. This study addresses both issues. Participatory action research was utilized to design a survey and semistructured interview to investigate ritual abuse survivor experience of seeking help. Sixty-eight participants completed the survey, and 22 were interviewed. A group approach to thematic analysis aided validity and reliability. Participants reported experiencing disbelief and a lack of ritual abuse awareness and help from support services. In contrast, participatory action research was reported by participants as educative and emancipatory. Future research should explore the benefits of participatory action research for survivors of different forms of oppression.


The current study found survivors appeared to suffer from the continued polarized discourse around belief, memory, and mental illness. The researchers discovered that survivors reported low awareness of RA issues among professionals, which in turn resulted in services being perceived as poor. As a consequence, participants reported they were reluctant to reveal histories of RA due to anticipated negative reactions. The authors suggest there is a need for survivor agencies to raise awareness of issues for RA survivors, share the experiences of survivors, and encourage development of survivor-sensitive services. PAR appears to be an empowering process for self-defined survivors, resulting in new competencies, positive perceptions,and social supports as well as the development of new life opportunities. In terms of the process of PAR, survivor researchers were able to be critically reflect on (a) their experiences of seeking help; (b) the action they engaged in, such as the research process itself; and (c) the action participants engaged in beyond the study, such as real-life change and ongoing research. Despite these methodological challenges, PAR offers a promising approach to achieving social change through research and contributing to personal growth of participant researchers. Although this study has focused on ritual abuse, future PAR research with other survivor groups is likely to be applicable and worthwhile

Laurie Matthew, Ian Barrow & Ann Hodson (2019): Participatory Action Research: Confidentiality and Attitudes of Victimized Young People Unknown to Child Protection Agencies, International Journal on Child Maltreatment Research, Policy and Practice

This study explores views of young child abuse survivors, whose abuse was unknown to child protection, about confidentiality. Survivors involved with charity Eighteen And Under (n= 185) were invited to participate. A total of 140 participated. Eight aged 12–20, two males and 6 females chose involvement as researchers and participants and 132 aged 11–30, 25 males, 114 females and one non-gendered chose participant involvement. Eighty-five percent (n= 117) were survivors of child sexual abuse and 15% (n= 23) were survivors of child abuse. Utilizing participatory action research, researchers designed and analyzed qualitative and quantitative data gathered through surveys, interviews, focus groups, online-chats and graffiti walls. A social construction thematic approach analyzed data. Interrater reliability was maximized through independent data analysis. The results showed that participants, particularly males and under 16 s, wanted greater protection of confidentiality. Males were less likely to disclose sexual abuse. Two superordinate themes were identified: (a) limited confidentiality led to fear of loss of control and trust and (b) retractions of abuse and higher levels of confidentiality led to talking openly, feeling respected and believed and a sense of control and empowerment. Two further themes were identified from young researcher reports: improved self-esteem and positive life changes. In conclusion,young people unknown to services want greater confidentiality than is currently offered. Participative research was emancipatory, and further participatory research with young CSA survivors is needed.


      Young CSA survivors unknown to CPS wanted higher levels of confidentiality than they currently receive from services. Further, young people reported that lack of confidentiality was one of the reasons they did not disclose abuse to professionals. This study highlighted the importance of young CSA survivors building relationships based on trust in confidentiality, being believed and having adults available with a positive attitude who would not judge them. Staying in control was also important to the young survivors. Current CPS in the UK do not lend themselves to this, as prosecution is a key aim. It also tends not to prioritise the support needs of young people and can be harmful, while not always ending abuse. All of this, including abuse retractions and the reluctance of young survivors to disclose abuse to authorities, would indicate that something different is needed. Having the opportunity to access confidential services could help meet the needs of many young CSA survivors better and possibly lead to more positive outcomes.
Indications are that young CSA survivors, unknown to CPS, do not trust these systems in the UK. This perspective, coupled with survivors’ powerlessness when faced with professionals and protectionist arguments prevents young people remaining in control or gaining any say in decisions affecting them.
Involving young CSA survivors as researchers in research with other young CSA survivors allowed them to address issues that had affected them directly and brought their own expertise into the study in a way that has not been achieved before now. Survivors conducting research led to novel foci of research and outcomes. All young researchers reported feeling empowered and increased self-esteem and self-confidence.

All articles posted with written permission of the author.

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