Better interventions for child victims of sexual abuse

In Quebec, one out of four women and one out of ten men report being victims of sexual assault before the age of 18. The reactions following this traumatic experience differ from one person to another. Some show the capacity to function adequately in the face of adversity. Others manifest significant initial distress that subsides after a few months. Still others develop symptoms of chronic distress. Sexual violence research has not yet managed to properly define the diversity of these reactions. 

Basing its work on a person-centred approach, the research team Violence sexuelle et santé (Sexual Violence and Health), directed by Martine Hébert from Université du Québec à Montréal, has made important progress on this question by developing a typology of reactions in child victims of sexual assault. This typology is based on the most typical characteristics of children showing profiles of resilience and of children presenting symptoms affecting many aspects of their development. 

The results of this research suggest that it is necessary to go beyond the variables linked to aggression in order to orient treatment. To explain the diversity of profiles, personal factors –for example, adaptation strategies – and family factors – in particular the degree of cohesion and conflict within the family – must be taken into account. 

The researchers have contributed to the introduction and evaluation of individual and group intervention practices based on conclusive results obtained from various Quebec organizations offering services for young victims of sexual assault. They are pursuing their work with a view of developing new evaluation tools for defining the diverse reactions that occur in child, adolescent and adult victims following the trauma of sexual assault.


Équipe de recherche Violence sexuelle et santé


Martine Hébert, Université du Québec à Montréal

Regular members

  • Sophie Boucher, Université du Québec à Montréal 
  • Mireille Cyr, Université du Québec à Montréal 
  • Mylène Fernet, Université du Québec à Montréal 
  • Francine Lavoie, Université Laval