Ethical Issues in the Legal System Sexual abuse of children refers to sexual behavior between a child and an adult or between two children when one of them is significantly older or uses coercion. The perpetrator and the victim may be of the same sex of the opposite sex. Child sexual abuse has been reported up to 80,000 times a year, but the number of unreported instances is far greater, because the children are afraid to tell anyone what has happened, and the legal procedure for validating an episode is difficult. The long-term emotional and psychological damage of sexual abuse can be devastating to the child. Child and adoscelent psychologists can help abused children regain a sense of self-esteem, cope with feelings of guilt about the abuse, and begin the process of overcoming the trauma. Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work for and to take care of everyone and to do no harm. The psychologist is there mediate the impact of sexual abuse and rebuild the lives of those affected by the trauma. ( e. g. , Courtois 1988; Russell 1986; Trepper & Barrett 1989). Psychologists deal with ethical and legal dilemmas in working with victims of sexual abuse; especially when individual and family needs become a conflict. Psychologists in the United States are required by law to report suspected child abuse. In most jurdistications, reporting requirements override both confidentially and privilege associated the physician patient relationship. When the evidence of abuse comes from the suspected abuser in the course of psychotherapy, difficult ethical issues arise from which authors of reporting legislation have often dismissed too lightly. Despite criticisms, it is clear that all states have determined that mandated reporting of perceived abuse is necessary. Of course the breach of confidently against reporting an individual may come into effect, but if the suspected victim is the one treated there is no breach in confidently since no therauptic relationship has been established. The requirement to report suspected past abuse places therapists in an ethical dilemma between suppressing the evidence of possible abuse and breaking confidence by reporting their suspicions. A system proposed in many states, clearly states the reporting of abuse of any child under eighteen that is currently receiving treatment or has received abuse in the past that may require therapy.
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