Background: The discovery that one's child has been sexually abused may be one of the worst events a parent can experience. The importance of parental support for the recovery of child sexual abuse (CSA) victims emphasizes the need to gain insight in difficulties parents face after disclosure. Objective: To improve crisis intervention by exploring how parents of very young, mostly male CSA victims involved in a large unique CSA case, look back on their initial reactions after disclosure, the impact of media coverage, and their experiences with service responses during the immediate aftermath of CSA discovery. Participants and setting: We conducted 18 qualitative interviews with 21 parents enrolled in the longitudinal Amsterdam Sexual Abuse Case (ASAC) study. Methods: We used thematic analysis, combining a deductive and inductive approach. Results: We identified four themes regarding parents' initial experiences after disclosure: shock, uncertainty, roller coaster and survival mode. Four themes emerged regarding the impact of media coverage: vulnerable to exposure, fear that the child would recognize the suspect, no escape possible, and burden versus acknowledgement. Parents' experiences regarding the actions of professionals also generated four themes: stressful and confronting, need for support, need for information, and need for professional competence. Conclusions: Disclosure of extrafamilial CSA left parents in shock, affecting their sense of control. Media coverage exacerbated stress for many parents, although some also drew support from it. Actions of professionals defined by parents as helpful included: being supportive, compassionate, accessible, and competent, providing information, and promoting autonomy. Implications for professionals are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105460
Number of pages14
JournalChild Abuse & Neglect
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • Child sexual abuse
  • Infants
  • Media
  • Parents
  • Qualitative
  • Service responses

Cite this