Psychological analyses indicate that children who have undergone molestation are likely to experience anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, physical injury and may be susceptible to more abuse in the future. When a child has been molested by a family member then this is likely to lead to even more severe emotional and psychological problems. In fact, studies indicate that approximately thirty percent of all child molestation cases are committed by family members. This essay shall look at how to approach the matter from a social work perspective and possible interventions for a child who has undergone such a traumatic experience.
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A social work theory that can be used for a child who has been molested by a family member
The theory chosen for this particular case is the systems theory. The major principle governing this theory is that a given state within a system is always in interaction with its environment and is consequently a function of its surrounding. Additionally, the systems theory postulates that conflict or change in any system can always be manifested. Therefore, people are affected by their surroundings and they also possess the capacity to change their environments. It is generally accepted that every human being belongs to a family. All members in the family must interact with one another and it is these interactions that bring the family to life. In the family, members are governed by values, norms and traditions that make them distinct from other family members and they are surrounded by boundaries. (Zastrow, 1991) However those units that have the most flexible boundaries tend to be the most successful or the healthiest. Each family also has roles that are assigned to members and status is accorded to certain positions. Those who have rigid roles, norms, goals, relationships and rules are the ones who tend to be unhealthy. Also, any system possesses subsystems; in unhealthy families, members in higher hierarchies like fathers or providers work towards diminishing the significance of members in lower hierarchies. Systems also possess feedback mechanisms that assist in keeping the whole process intact. Therefore, families that adopt a negative feedback mechanism are likely to remain unchanging and this eventually destroys the home.
When applied to the case under consideration i.e. a child who has been molested by a family member, it is necessary to first establish some of the preconditions needed to make this theory applicable in the latter scenario. First of all, the method yields adequate results for children between the ages of six and twelve. There for this case, it was quite plausible that the child being treated is seven years old. Secondly, one must look into the circumstances at the time the client has been presented for treatment. In this case, a range of family issues were to be discussed. Also, co morbid conditions that the child was experiencing will also form an essential part of this strategy. (Meezan, 1998) However, it should be noted that the underlying goal in this kind of therapy is not merely to treat current or symptomatic health conditions (although this will form a central part of the intervention) but it is also to prevent the occurrence of any other problems in the future. Since this treatment is for a young child, then strong parental involvement was essential in success of the method. However, if it happens that the family member who perpetrated the abuse was a parent, then he or she would not have been involved in the therapeutic process as a different authority would be responsible for dealing with the molester. There are some critical issues that can affect the success of such an intervention and they include: the frequency with which this molestation took place. Usually, stronger techniques are necessary in cases where the abuse has been going on for a very long time. Additionally, the nature of the family origin should be examined as the child may not have been brought up by one family from their infancy. Also, the severity of the molestation will also be taken into consideration (Meezan, 1998). For this case, it was noted that the child was abused by a father severally; i.e. once in two months for one year. Other important factors for this case were: the child grew up with the same family all her life and the child was sexually abused i.e. caused to engage in intercourse with her (it will also be assumed that she is female) father.
Type of intervention that I am using with this young child
In treatment, as a social worker I attempted to find out whether triangulation had occurred in the concerned family. The latter term refers to family violence transmission from adults to children. Here, the therapy sought to establish whether role reversal took place as a result of family tensions in the home. Questions like whether the child was forced to wear the shoes of her mother in the incestuous molestation were to be determined. The child was asked whether her father is very authoritarian, whether her parents seem like a happy couple, whether her father has ever physically abused other members of the family or whether her father is chemically dependant on drugs or alcohol. To this end, the mother to the molested child was also involved in this therapeutic process. She was required to divulge some information about her role as mother and whether she may have been unable or unwilling to carry them out. She was assessed for depression or some sort of subservience to indicate if that played a contributory role in causing the current dilemma. Also a lot of attention was given to the nature of the father to daughter and mother to child relationship. Here, it was necessary to examine if the child feels isolated by either her mother or father and what could have caused the mother not to protect her against an abusive father. (Zastrow, 1991)
It is likely that denial and dissociation could have been a key aspect in this home. Therefore, in the intervention process, it was essential to find out whether these two elements were prevalent and effective methods were curved out to avoid them. It should be noted that as the perpetrator of the abuse, it was assumed that the father of this child was already in confinement. However, if this had not been the case, then removal of the child from such an environment would be the first step as precedence we given to her well being rather than family intactness. Through family messages and a number of unconscious rules, it is likely that this seven year old girl was in denial. Therefore, as a social worker, it was necessary to attempt to eliminate any feelings of denial so that the client can some to terms with her experience by feeling it, thinking about and hence questioning it. The therapeutic process focused on making her accept the reality of what actually happened to her. Issues of trust were critical here and therefore the victim was assisted on how she can learn how to trust herself or to trust others. Therefore, some issues such as family protection and keeping secrets were to be thrown out of the window because these are what led to the perpetual occurrence. The victim’s needs were prioritized and she was taught how to be a child again. In the future, she will be taught that it is okay to make mistakes and it is okay to play or to be as responsible as a seven year old should be and not an adult. The child will be made to understand that it was not her fault and that the situation which she has found herself in was not necessarily something inevitable or normal for that matter. The mother involved in this therapeutic process will also play a part in trying to normalize the child’s environment as there were some unconscious messages that she was sending to her daughter. (Goering, Sheldon & Levitan, 2003) As a social worker, I will explain to her that she should let her child behave as one; this means asking for help, analyzing or questioning situations and requesting for help. She needs to make herself approachable and trustworthy again by accepting her role as a mother and successfully carrying it out. On top of the latter, she must work on creating a feeling of safety in the home by relaxing the rigidity in the home and by protecting her children. Some of the strategies that will be essential in making the client’s mother see this point of view include eco maps where patterns in the relationship that have problems will be identified. Also, instances of social isolation or interaction patterns will also be found. After telling the mother that she should be courageous and bold enough to take actions, it will be critical to also take her side and see things from her perspective s as to eradicate the impediments to her actions.
Type methods to evaluate/ monitor treatment effectiveness
In order to assess whether the intervention has worked, four major issues within the child will be analyzed: whether any other subsequent abuse has taken place. As stated earlier, one of the primary goals of this treatment was to ensure that no more molestation takes place in the future. If this is the case, then the intervention was effective. Thereafter, the client will be analyzed for denial i.e. has she come to terms with what happened to her and has she internalized this well?. Repression of any memories of the incident will be another crucial assessment tool. Lastly, the child’s ability to associate with other members of her family or her peers will be another important assessment idea.
The systems theory tends to work very well with clients below the age of twelve thus making it an ideal treatment method. The goal of the process is to get the child to come to terms with her molestation and also to prevent subsequent abuse. The social worker must therefore work with the non molesting parent so as to identify and hence prevent possible areas that led to the abuse.
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Goering, P., Sheldon, T. & Levitan, R. (2003). Childhood adversities linked with anxiety disorders. Journal of depression and anxiety 17(3): 35
Meezan, W. (1998). Effectiveness of group therapy in child abuse. Social work practice research journal 8(3): 330
Zastrow, C. (1991). An introduction to social welfare. Belmont: Wadsworth publishers