Between Scylla and Charybdis: A Literature Review of Sexual Abuse Allegations in Divorce Proceedings


In this study international literature is reviewed on allegations of child sexual abuse (CSA) during divorce proceedings. It aims to build upon the existing knowledge on this topic by combining empirical findings from various disciplines. We attempted to answer four research questions that focus on 1) the prevalence of CSA allegations in divorce procedures; 2) the response of family court judges; 3) the ratio of founded vs. unfounded allegations of CSA under these circumstances; and 4) the possible consequences of the false positives and false negatives in legal decision making for the children and parents involved. The literature study shows that civil judges often seek professional help. The judge generally tends to (temporarily) stop contact between accused parent and child during an investigation. Additionally, there is a general concern about the many actors involved in such cases. It can also be cautiously assumed that one in seven to eight allegations is not founded. We conclude that civil judges have to make important decisions under difficult circumstances: there is little or no evidence, no guidelines, external help lengthens the trial, and there are serious consequences of false positives and false negatives in legal decision-making. Literature is surprisingly scarce and generally outdated.

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Smit, A. , Antokolskaia, M. and Bijleveld, C. (2015) Between Scylla and Charybdis: A Literature Review of Sexual Abuse Allegations in Divorce Proceedings. Psychology, 6, 1373-1384. doi: 10.4236/psych.2015.611134.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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