Awareness, Incidence and Psychological Wellbeing of Childhood Sexual Abuse as Reported by Ultra-Orthodox Mothers

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The harm caused by child sexual abuse (CSA) is well-documented, calling for more awareness and efforts at prevention. However, CSA in closed religious societies is still tightly under wraps, and therefore underreported and understudied. We chose to use the mother’s point of view, in order get an estimate of the prevalence, the reporting rates and their psychological wellbeing. The current study aims at addressing this in the Jewish ultra-Orthodox community, an insular religious one, which may thus serve as a test case for understanding other closed, religious communities. Three hundred forty-seven ultra-Orthodox Israeli women completed self-report questionnaires and reported on their, or their children’s exposure to CSA sexual abuse, about their emotional coping, and about considerations regarding disclosing the abuse. About 24% the participants reported that they were victims of sexual abuse. Only 24.3% of cases were reported to the police or official welfare services, with cultural reasons offered by the women to explain it. Lower psychological wellbeing was found among mothers who themselves or their children were victims of child sexual abuse, compared to controls. Interestingly, mothers who reported having undergone psychological treatment suffered a higher degree of distress than those who had not. These findings contribute to the understanding of the dynamics of sexual abuse exposure and disclosure in the ultraorthodox community, and in close societies and highlight the changes required to improve safeguarding of children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)554-574
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Child Sexual Abuse
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

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  • Child sexual abuse
  • disclosure
  • motherhood
  • religious communities
  • treatment


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