n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Play techniques in the assessment of sexually abused black children

Volume 16, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



The sexual abuse of children is generally considered to be one of the most despicable acts against children. Even in cases where medical evidence of sexual abuse exists, it is still expected of the victim to make a statement that will be used in the court case against the perpetrator. In the event of sexual abuse of children it is often required of the social workers to submit a report on the alleged sexual abuse to the court. These reports are the results of interviews by the social worker with the victim and are used to assist the court in deciding whether or not a child is safe to remain in, or remove from his or her present environment; whether the child the child is able to testify in court or whether an intermediary should be used. A big challenge to the social worker lies in the assessment of children of a different race or culture, mainly because of the language barrier. The professional person therefore has to rely on different techniques and skills to obtain the information needed from the victim to compile the assessment report for the court. Play techniques enable the child to verbalise his or her experience of the sexual abuse.

The researcher has found that play therapy techniques that were successfully used on Afrikaans- and English-speaking children, did not necessarily work on black children. The researcher, a social worker in the South African Police Service, has contact with sexually abused children from different race groups on a daily basis. Her experience was that black children in their mid-childhood years, were very reluctant to verbalise what had happened to them during assessment. For this research, the researcher utilised 11 play techniques with black girls in their midchildhood years through the aid of a translator. These techniques lead to the disclosure of sexual abuse in all six cases.

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