Child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome

Child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome (CSAAS) is a syndrome proposed by Roland C. Summit in 1983 to describe how he believed sexually abused children responded to ongoing sexual abuse.

Summit described how children try to resolve the experience of sexual abuse in relation to the effects of disclosure in real life. He posited five stages:[1]

  1. Secrecy
  2. Helplessness
  3. Entrapment and accommodation
  4. Delayed disclosure
  5. Retraction

Summit himself recognized in later articles the extent to which many persons were misled by the use of the term "syndrome" and how his theory had been inappropriately used as a diagnostic tool both in the field of behavioural sciences and in the courtroom.[2]

According to Mary de Young, CSAAS featured heavily in the day-care sex-abuse hysteria of the 1980s and 1990s, because it purports to explain both delayed disclosures and withdrawals of false allegation of child sexual abuse. De Young argued that CSAAS is used to justify any statement made by a child as an indication that sexual abuse had occurred, because immediate disclosure could be an indication of abuse, but also delayed disclosure, withdrawal and sustained denial.[3]

Several states have barred testimony regarding CSAAS, based on evidence that it is not generally accepted in the scientific community, except for delayed reporting.[4] Neither the American Psychiatric Association nor the American Psychological Association has recognized CSAAS.


  1. Summit, Roland (1983). "The child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome" (pdf). Child Abuse Negl. 7 (2): 177–93. doi:10.1016/0145-2134(83)90070-4. PMID 6605796.
  2. R. v. K (A.), (1999), 1999 CanLII 3793 (ON CA), 45 O.R. (3d) 641 (C.A.) at paras. 125
  3. De Young, Mary (2004). The day care ritual abuse moral panic. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-1830-3.
  4. State v. J.L.G., Docket Number A-50-16(N.J. Sup. Ct. July 31, 2018). See also State v. Ballard, 855 S.W.2d 557, 562 (Tenn. Sup. Ct. 1993); Hadden v. State, 690 So. 2d 573 (Fla. Sup. Ct. 1997)
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