Expert in Child Abuse & Neglect Lecture Series: Rosaleen McElvaney, PhD

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The College of New Jersey

2000 Pennington Road

Ewing Township, NJ 08618

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September 10, 2019 Helping children tell about their experiences of sexual abuse by Rosaleen McElvaney, PhD

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The CARES Institute's Expert in Child Abuse and Neglect Lecture Series:

Helping children tell about their experiences of sexual abuse

Venue: The College of New Jersey, 2000 Pennington Road, Ewing, NJ 08618

This presentation will provide an overview of research on child sexual abuse disclosure and propose specific strategies for helping professionals create an opportunity to help children disclose when they have had an experience of sexual abuse. Before the millenium, most of what we knew about disclosure was gleaned from studies focusing on other aspects of child sexual abuse, in particular prevalence rates. We now have a body of knowledge that is drawn from both studies of adults and studies of children, quantitative and qualitative, that gives us a better understanding of the complexity of the disclosure process. This presentation will highlight those factors that have been found to influence disclosure, such as gender and relationship to perpetrator and those factors that have a more complex relationship with time to disclosure, such as developmental differences, severity of abuse and both intrapersonal and interpersonal psychological factors that have been found to influence disclosure experiences.

Drawing on this research base, the presentation will offer a number of strategies to guide participants in their work with children. One key finding from reviews of disclosure research is the importance of providing opportunities for children to disclose and not relying on children to spontaneously tell an adult of their experiences. However, care must be taken in how professionals approach this task. Creating an expectation in our relationships with children that they tell us about their struggles, noticing changes in children's behaviors or emotional presentations, asking children about their wellbeing in a non-directive manner, educating children about sexual abuse, reassuring children of the importance of talking about their experiences and their feelings, and taking action when children confide in us, are all strategies which support children in telling about their experiences of sexual abuse. Participants will be encouraged to reflect on how they can use these strategies in their own work with children and adolescents.

Intended audiences: This presentation is intended for child protection workers, law enforcement personnel, attorneys, physicians, nurses, mental health professionals (including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers of all levels, and licensed counselors), and all other disciplines not listed.

Learning Objectives: Participants will be able to:

  1. Analyze both the content and methodologies used in research to date on child sexual abuse disclosures
  2. Evaluate the findings from this body of research
  3. Evaluate the proposed strategies for helping children disclose; and
  4. Create their own plan of action as to how they can apply this learning in their own professional context

Dr. Rosaleen McElvaney is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist with almost 30 years experience working in the field of sexual abuse. Founding Director of LARAGH Counselling Service, the first statutory counselling service for adults who had experienced sexual abuse in Ireland, she was also involved in setting up a sexual abuse therapy service for children and families in St. Clare's Unit, the Children's University Hospital in Dublin. Following her doctoral thesis on how children disclose sexual abuse, she has been involved in professional training of social care workers, psychotherapists and psychologists. She lectures in psychotherapy in Dublin City University, where she also holds the role of Associate Dean of International Affairs. She has served on several national committees advising on child abuse issues. She is a past president of the Psychological Society of Ireland and chairs the European Federation of Psychologists' Association's EuroPsy Awarding Committee. She is author of several peer reviewed papers and book chapters on sexual abuse and has authored three books, Finding the words: Helping children talk about difficult topics (2017, Veritas), How children tell: Containing the secret of child sexual abuse (2015, Lambert), Helping children tell about sexual abuse: Guidance for professionals (2017, Jessica Kingsley.


9:25 AM – Overview of research on child sexual abuse disclosure

9:55 AM – Review opportunities for children to disclose and not relying on children to spontaneously tell an adult of their experiences

10:30 AM – Break

10:35 AM – Understand factors that have been found to influence disclosure

11:25 AM – Reflection on how they can use strategies in their own work with children and adolescents

12:00 PM – End of Presentation

Requesting Assistance: If you require assistance with hearing, vision or mobility to make this conference accessible to you, please contact the office at (856) 566-6744 three (3) weeks prior to the conference.

Accreditation: Please contact the CARES Institute at (856) 566-6744 or for information about continuing education credits.

*Attendees must attend the entire conference, return a completed evaluation in order to earn CE credits. Attendees who meet this requirement will receive their certificate when they sign out.

Psychologists: Rowan University CARES Institute is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Rowan University CARES Institute maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

Social Workers: Helping Children Tell About Their Experiences of Sexual Abuse, Course #2590, is approved by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program to be offered by Rowan Medicine CARES Institute, a division of Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine as an individual course. Individual courses, not providers, are approved at the course level. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. ACE course approval period: 07/24/2019 - 07/24/2021. Social workers completing this course receive 2.5 Clinical Practice continuing education credits.

Attorneys: An application has been submitted to the Board on Continuing Legal Education of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Nurses: An application has been submitted to Cooper University Healthcare as an approved provider of continuing nursing education by New Jersey State Nurses Association.

Physicians: An application has been submitted to Medical Society of New Jersey through the joint providership of Atlantic Health System and the American Academy of Pediatrics, New Jersey Chapter.

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The College of New Jersey

2000 Pennington Road

Ewing Township, NJ 08618

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