Supporting Sexually Abused Children
Authored by: Lisa Dugan
Photography by: Candace diCarlo
According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), an estimated 9.3 percent of child abuse and neglect cases involve sexual abuse.
DSW graduate Bianca Harper has dedicated her social work career to helping protect and support children and families who are impacted by sexual abuse. As a child forensic interviewer she aided in child sex abuse investigations by helping the victims talk about their experiences. In many sex abuse cases, the child’s statement is the only evidence available to investigators. However, sexually abused children are often so traumatized and ashamed it can be difficult for them to talk about what they have been through. They may worry that others won’t believe them or that it will split their family apart. Harper’s social work training enabled her to obtain statements from children in a developmentally sensitive, neutral manner, as well as work with families who are affected by sexual abuse. “This work is important to me because there is a tremendous need for services to support children and families who are trying to heal from sexual abuse,” she says.
Bianca’s dissertation explored the complex and under-researched problem of sibling sexual abuse. After earning her DSW at Penn, Bianca was offered a position as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California School of Social Work. Now Bianca is helping to prepare social work students to work with abused children and their families. “I did not anticipate the tremendous impact the DSW program would have on my professional life. I was introduced to a wonderful network of colleagues, my clinical skills were enhanced, and I had the opportunity to teach. I quickly realized how much I enjoyed teaching and as a result I have pursued a career in academia.”