SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • adult survivors of abuse;
  • child abuse;
  • scales and assessment;
  • sexual abuse;
  • trauma

Accessible summary

  • • 
    Childhood sexual abuse has been associated with the increased risk of developing mental illness in adulthood. It has also been associated with increased frequency of relapse, hospital admission, and suicidal and self-harming behaviour.
  • • 
    The literature relating to childhood sexual abuse enquiry in acute mental health settings is limited in quantity and is of moderate to poor quality.
  • • 
    This review has revealed that mental health professionals do not routinely enquire about childhood sexual abuse in acute mental health settings.
  • • 
    This review recommends that mental health service providers introduce mandatory enquiry about childhood sexual abuse into routine mental health assessment. This enquiry should be supported by staff training.

Abstract

This literature review examines the extent to which mental health professionals enquire about childhood sexual abuse during routine mental health assessments in acute mental health settings. Five electronic databases were searched for papers which explored the nature of enquiry about childhood sexual abuse by mental health professionals. The literature was searched between December 2008 and March 2010, with an update in October 2011. Of the 332 papers identified, 54 papers were selected as potentially relevant and data extraction was performed. Eleven studies met the inclusion criteria. Eleven studies were identified that either examined the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse enquiry documented in medical records, or directly asked mental health professionals about their own practice in relation to this subject. The studies found that while many professionals acknowledged the importance of enquiry, there was little evidence of widespread routine enquiry during mental health assessments in acute settings. Mental health professionals do not routinely enquire about childhood sexual abuse during mental health assessment in acute mental health settings. Service providers may have to consider incorporating mandatory enquiry into mental health assessments.