Pre-trial Therapy for Child Complainants of Sexual Abuse

Project Team

Prof. Ansie Fouché, Mr Frans Fouché, and Dr Liana Le Roux


In South Africa, child victims of sexual abuse who are potential witnesses in criminal trials need to testify in court, often using closed circuit television and with the assistance of an intermediary. However, despite all these measures to protect them from further traumatisation anecdotal reports indicated that therapy for such children is commonly delayed until after testimony in court. This practice rule is based on a belief that therapy might contaminate the child’s evidence, and could ultimately lead to the acquittal of a guilty person. Social workers and other professionals fear being blamed for jeopardising the case; therefore, they thus delay intervention or referral for therapy. Policy reform seems imperative and the state should be held responsible for the provision of pre-trial therapy for child victims. In addition, directives regarding the provision of pre-trial therapy should be formalised in the form of practice guidelines for therapists and ignorance amongst legal professionals and mental health professionals should be eliminated.

This study is a multi-disciplinary and inter-university project.  Prof. Ansie Fouché, Mr Frans Fouché a practising attorney and lecturer at the Vaal University of Technology, and a senior lecturer in social work from the Department of Social Work and Criminology at the University of Pretoria, Dr Liana Le Roux, are currently exploring this unfounded prevailing culture in South Africa.