Values, Ethics, and Child Sexual Abuse
By Jane GilgunChild sexual abuse is repugnant
and unimaginable to most people. How cananyone do those things to children? is a common question. Acts of sexual abuseactivate our deepest sense of moral outrage. The thought that people can takeadvantage of children for their own emotional and sexual gratification isoutrageous.Yet, professionals are called up to respond with compassion and understandingto survivors and non-offending family members. No codes of ethics require thatwe work with perpetrators, and we are free to think about them as we wish.What we cannot do is put our own moral outrage at perpetrators on children andother family members.We somehow have to manage our own responses in such ways that children andother family members have safe spaces where they can explore and hopefullycome to terms with the impact of child sexual abuse. Children, for example, oftenexpress love for perpetrators even as they want the abuse to stop.To work effectively with children and families where children have experiencedchild sexual abuse, service providers must understand the personal meaningsthat sexual abuse has for child survivors and other family members. Serviceproviders must also examine their own personal meanings.Service providers must be open to the experiences that children and other familymembers want to explore while at the same time respecting their own moralvalues and perspectives.