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Beyond Anatomical Dolls: Professionals' Use of Other Play Therapy Techniques

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 16 Dated: (1992) Pages: 139-142
Date Published
4 pages
This study surveyed law enforcement professionals and mental health professionals regarding the techniques they use in interviewing alleged child victims of sexual abuse.

A sample of 201 Boston-area professionals were interviewed by telephone. There were 63 males and 138 females with a mean of 10.1 years experience in their professions, 9.4 years working with children in general, and 6.1 years working with child victims of sexual abuse. To be eligible for participation in the study, subjects had to work within a designated geographical catchment area and have experience in working with child victims of sexual abuse (12 years old or younger). Interviewees included 50 police officers, 24 district attorney staff members, and 127 mental health professionals. The questionnaire addressed three main topics: demographic characteristics of the professionals, professionals' presentation of anatomical dolls to children, and professionals' ratings of the convincingness of behavioral indicators of sexual abuse. Seventy-three percent of professionals in the sample used anatomical dolls. Subjects were also asked about the techniques they used in addition to anatomical dolls when talking with children about sexual abuse. The survey found that professionals, especially mental health professionals, use a wide variety of techniques when evaluating suspected child victims. The most commonly used techniques are free drawings, anatomical drawings, puppets, and doll houses. Mental health professionals use significantly more techniques, possibly because they work with the children for more sessions than do law enforcement professionals, and may be less focused on only collecting evidence. Future research should examine all interviewing techniques used by those who interview child victims of sexual abuse. Only in this way can interviewers move toward more standardized and accurate methods of assessing suspected child victims. 1 table and 4 references

Date Published: January 1, 1992