IPT Book Reviews

Title: Child Sexual Abuse  Negative Review
Authors: Danya Glazer and Stephen Frosh
Publisher: Dorsey Press

Dorsey Press
Watsworth, Inc.
7625 Empire Drive
Florence, KY 41042
$32.50 (c) / $16.25 (p)


This short (173 pages) book consists of eight chapters dealing with sexual abuse, and is primarily written for social service workers.  Both authors are members of the North Southwork Child Abuse Team in England and write predominantly from their experience.  The eight chapters deal with common myths, sexual abuse as a multi-faceted problem, various family issues, professional responses, charge validation, professional involvements, and treatment.  There is a final chapter on team usage.  The book closes by providing a limited reference list for future reading.  Although this book is from England, there is no mention of the highly publicized erroneous charges of sexual abuse and the subsequent inquiry at Cleveland, England.


In some instances, this book confuses adult rape with child molestation, and parental power to do good for children with power to do wrong only and an individualistic ideology (children's right versus family rights).  There is further confusion in children's versus adolescents' rights, but the book does address children's rights to some degree.  Chapter 4 on the initial response of professionals to the family and child is of interest.  The authors clearly acknowledge that criminal prosecution of some parents may not always be in the child's best interest, and may be iatrogenic in certain cases, emphasizing the importance of the social worker's judgment.  The authors also state, "In fact, the child sexual abuse may be a central component in maintaining the family's functioning" (p.58).  This one sentence adds a degree of insight and direction that most books avoid.

Material on the female as offender is missing and there is little on sibling incest.  Also, the absence of a discussion of the Cleveland scandal raises credibility issues for the book.  Perhaps the weakest section is in Chapter 5 on the medical examination.  Since most of the medical data on child sexual abuse is methodologically flawed, it is debatable as to what conclusions can be drawn from it.  (It appears that the CPS workers can not trust medical science.)

The authors recommend the use of video-recordings by all staff, but this may be illegal when used in court in some American states in lieu of alleged victim confrontation.  The tapes may have rehabilitative value only.  The authors wisely say that doll usage in diagnosis (sic) is only "suggestive" (p.88).

The authors list as one of the main functions of the protective service worker, to make "A decision ... that no sexual abuse has taken place, following false allegations or the misrepresentations of phenomena."  This marks a breakthrough in the children-don't-lie simplicity.  The authors admit, but offer no solutions, to social service interventions that demonstrate erroneous charges that create family problems.

Perhaps the best chapter for child protection workers and social workers is Chapter 7, Therapeutic Intervention, which highlights the poverty of all our interventions to date.  Nothing new has emerged in the past 15 years.  It seems that we are trying to force treatments today into yesterday's formats.  Group treatment is endorsed, and the authors suggest that confidentiality in treatment must be ruptured if the therapist feels that the child should be protected, although some therapists may disagree with this.

The last chapter on teams may present the greatest problem for practitioners.  The book warns of the anti-male stance of many teams, while paradoxically calling for more teams, apparently for the CPS worker and not for the family of the alleged victim.

However, the book does not deal adequately with the professional rivalry of teams, the ambiguity of child abuse laws, or the declining resources of the community.  The book also demonstrates that national and state policy is the result of political process rather than of empirical evidence.

In general, this book offers little new material and is designed more for the beginner and not for those of us in the trenches.

Reviewed by LeRoy Schultz, School of Social Work, West Virginia University.

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