IPT Book Reviews

Title: Assessing Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse
Author: Kathryn Kuehnle
Publisher: Professional Resource Press, 1996

Professional Resource Press
P.O. Box 15560
Sarasota, FL 34277-1560
(800) 443-3364
$49.00 (c)

This is a large, easy-to-read book by a psychologist in private practice who specializes in evaluations of sexual abuse allegations and who defines herself as an advocate for children. Thee are 11 chapters and 25 appendices, many charts and tables, and 305 listed references. The book closes with a usable index.

In the introduction, Kuehnle states that there are nine possibilities that come from sexual abuse allegations and she stresses that professionals must remain neutral until the evidence leads to a particular outcome. The last five possibilities are that the alleged victim may be falsely accusing someone for various reasons. The purpose of the book is to take the professional through the mine fields awaiting them in a highly ambiguous area, where some 80% of sexual abuse charges are "unfounded." The author states at he beginning that, "to date, there is no single assessment tool that can serve as a 'litmus test' for determining whether sexual abuse has occurred" (p. 2).

Chapter 1 addresses the data and statistics on national abuse reporting, corporal punishment questions, and the different state definitions of sexual abuse. She also discusses the interviewer as the source of bias. In Chapter 2 she differentiates the role of therapist from that of evaluator and emphasizes that the evaluator should not attempt to replace the jury as the finder of fact. Chapter 3 deals with the "normative" behavior of children that is not pathological or indicative of sexual abuse and Chapter 4 describes the research on children's memory. Chapters 5 through 7 review various evaluation models that are currently in use. None of these emerges as clearly superior from its competitors. Chapter 8 reviews the limitations in the use of anatomical dolls and Chapter 9 deals with standard observation methods of children. Chapter 10 provides a case example of the suggested format for evaluation. Each chapter closes with a helpful set of guidelines and cautions.

The book, unintentionally perhaps, indicates how little we know of children's development and specific sexual development issues in today's families, and how political considerations affect definitions of abuse. The book contains much common sense and it acknowledges the possibility of false allegations.

The book's limitations include the omission of some of the more recent and important references, a discussion of how long delays, which may include foster home placement, affect children's memories, and how allegations involving children may differ from those involving adolescents.

Reviewed by LeRoy G. Schultz, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, West Virginia University.

Order this book: Hardcover

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