Using a qualitative grounded theory approach, the authors conducted nineteen interviews with parents of sexually abused children about their experiences navigating the criminal justice system. All participants notified the police of the sexual abuse and nearly all of the cases proceeded to court. Parents reported having had negative experiences with the criminal process, stating that they felt a loss of control over the process, that there were inconsistencies between different legal systems, that their children were often treated as adults and did not therapeutically benefit from the legal process, that they were dissatisfied with punitive outcomes, and that they felt motivated to support other parents entering the legal system.
Interviews also generated numerous recommendations that parents had for improving the criminal procedure in child sexual abuse cases. Some of the recommendations include: facilitating coordination between various sectors related to a child’s sexual abuse case, developing specialized child specific courts, improving accessibility to support resources for parents, excluding child therapy records from being used as evidence in court, and prioritizing child sexual abuse cases to expedite the process.