IPT Book Reviews

Title: The Multi-Professional Handbook of Child Sexual Abuse   Positive Review
Author: Tilman Furniss
Publisher: Routledge 1991

Routledge, Chapman, and Hall, Inc.
29 West 35th Street
New York, NY 10001
(212) 244-3336
$74.50 (c); $35.00 (p)


This 357-page book is written by a man with 15 years experience working on the problem of adult sexual abuse of children, mostly in Europe.  American readers may be taken aback by the author's honesty, particularly in the book's preface.  The book is written like a long legal brief with clearly marked pages and chapters.  It covers, briefly, topics such as sexually abused professionals, experts, preparing court reports, "goodies and baddies" in the CPS network, court-ordered therapy, sibling sexual abuse, and Munchausen syndrome by proxy.


The author sets the trend of the book with the statement, "I have learned that crisis intervention in child sexual abuse begins with the crisis of the professionals" (p. xiii).  He believes that sexual feelings while working with victims may be crucial and views abuse as more sexual than physical.  He mentions that a hidden resource of information may be the offender and recommends not prematurely condemning him or her.  He notes that available treatments are generally failures for both victims and offenders.

He supports adolescent sexual rights and deplores the American professionals' refusal to think in sexual interactional terms as some Europeans do.  He laments the American trend to separate functions and missions among police, parents, courts, and child protection and states, "(T)he half blind are talking to the blind" (p. 6).

The author believes that professionals may, unwittingly, reenact their own sexual abuse on innocent children.  He presents four methods for dealing with conflict and minimizing its destructive aspects in multi-professional teams: (1) recognizing differences in professional findings, facts, and reactions; (2) pointing out at each meeting that conflict exist; (3) welcoming differences of opinion and viewing these differences as wholesome and needed (no team should be without a Devil's advocate); and (4) recognizing that professionals who present problems ("baddies") may not be experiencing a conflict and avoiding scapegoating of these people.

One of the most interesting sections of this book deals with the pros and cons of male or female therapists.  There is much gender-based folklore around this issue that does not acknowledge child protection staffing limitations.

The book has flaws.  It relies on clinical samples and there is no comparative research in terms of ages, gender, or sexual acts.  There is no discussion of accountability for interventions.  Nevertheless, this book is valuable for professionals since it make good suggestions for moving towards a workable solution for dealing with child sexual abuse.

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

Order this book: Hardcover

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