Is It Okay To Breach A Child's Privacy To Prevent Child Sexual Abuse?

Police arrested a 75-year-old tutor for allegedly assaulting an 11-year-old girl he was mentoring.

According to reports, the great-grandparents of the girl discovered the abuse when her younger sister gave them the victim's diary. She asked her great-grandfather to read the diary for her because she couldn't read.

When the great-grandfather read the diary, he reached out to the school principal immediately. The principal, then, informed law enforcement about the abuse.

Investigators said the perpetrator gained the trust of the victim and her family. In fact, he was tutoring another sibling of the victim. The child had been assaulted several times according to detectives. They also determined that the tutor had been giving gifts to the child.

The young victim "had been reaching out for help by acting meaner than usual to her siblings and leaving her diary in different places," according to police. Jacob Beltran, "San Antonio student's diary leads to arrest of tutor," (Oct. 25, 2017).

Commentary and Checklist

According to some psychologists, reading a child’s diary should be avoided because “it violates privacy, it violates the integrity of the child’s self, and it undermines the trust that is the basis for a healthy [parent-child] relationship.” However, the psychologist believes that reading is justified as a safety issue if a parent or guardian suspects that a child is suicidal or being abused.

In this case, it seems that the child had been leaving her diary in different places for her siblings and relatives to find and read for themselves. They had no idea that the child was being abused because they trusted the perpetrator.

A common presumption among safe adults is that abused children “will give one detailed, clear account of abuse.” That is rare. Instead, victims often give hints over time or display actions that lead loved ones to believe something is wrong.

Researchers found the following to be true regarding a child’s disclosure of abuse:

  • Disclosures unfold gradually and the child may give a series of hints
  • If they believe that their parents or guardian are handling the hints well, they may give a bigger hint
  • Abused children may disclose to a friend or sibling in many cases
  • Mothers are the most likely to be told among all other family members
  • Few child sexual abuse victims disclose abuse to authorities or professionals
  • Of all professionals, teachers are the most likely to be told.
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