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JILT 1999 (1) - Lind & Butler

Traumatised Children - Juvenile Delinquent
Traumatised Children - A Case of Sexual Abuse

Shortlist Video Resources for Higher Education
VHS viewing copy GBP 35.00 plus VAT
Master tape - UK Education only GBP 150.00 plus VAT

Reviewed by

Craig Lind

Conor M. Butler

Lecturer in Law

Lecturer in Health and Social Care

University of Sussex

Kingston College


Shortlist Video Resources have produced two videos in a series - Traumatised Children - for use by those whose work involves the teaching of psychology, sociology, and law. Each video consists of a case study of the particular issue under consideration. The issues are presented to the viewer by editing together a series of interviews with some of the relevant participants in the case studies themselves, or people like them. Thus, in Juvenile Delinquent there are interviews with the child himself, his mother, his teacher, a social worker, a policeman, and a number of other individuals more peripheral to his case and cases like his. A similar range of participants is put before the viewer in A Case of Sexual Abuse. There are no 'dramatic reconstructions' of events, nor does there appear to be any commentary on the incidents by anyone other than participants in these kinds of process. Although the interviews are reflective (conducted when the cases had 'ended' rather than during the progress of each case) they purport to relay the 'simple' facts of each case with commentary limited to the particulars of that case.

As these are case studies they are, of course, merely provided to illustrate the problems that particular social traumas raise for the series of individuals left to deal with the (especially social) fallout of the particular circumstances that confront them. It is therefore appropriate that the videos should not pre-empt critical examination of the issues raised. To some extent the two videos succeed in achieving the aim by remaining (remarkably) dispassionate. They attempt to appear to be entirely non judgmental. They merely place before the viewer information gleaned from the various participants in the social problems they are considering. The viewer is then left with an overview of the problem faced by each of the participants, given in her/his own words and reflecting her/his own perspectives on it. Sometimes the reflective nature of the interview allows some of the participants to assess the processes adopted by themselves and the other agencies involved. But their comments are limited to the particulars of the case. They rarely comment on the nature of their professional involvement more generally. Nor do they give away much of the professional background that informs the work that they do in the traumatic issues facing them. The result is a fairly dry rendition of a social problem which is obviously peppered with much greater ethical complexity.

The tapes do, however, manipulate information. Some significant participants are absent (notably, the alleged abuser in A Case of Child Abuse). Furthermore, none of the interviews is given in its entirety. The editors have spliced together fragments of the interviews of the participants so as to build up a picture of the traumatic issue being examined. Thus, different perspectives on the same issue are juxtaposed by being edited to run from one to the other. The mother's view, for example, of a court process follows a psychologists assessment of it which, in its turn, follows a lawyers rendition of it, etc.. Thus, the information is not presented to the student as it would be to any of the practitioners involved. The portrayal of dispassionate, objective information, therefore, disguises a series of judgements that have already been made by the editors. A selective, multi-layered story of varying perspectives has been woven together for students to consider. And that story obviously contains some biases.

Even a successfully dry (objective) rendition of the 'facts', however, may not have been unproblematic. These videos provide none of the analytical tools which would enable outsiders - the student viewer, for example - to address and begin to resolve the myriad problems raised in the scenarios presented. Given that these are teaching aids this may come as no real surprise to some. Teachers will be able to use these videos for their own purposes, constructing exercises around the fairly open and broad ranging information that is provided by them. And to this extent they are commendable. Nevertheless it does seem to be a pity that the producers have provided no guidance to teachers on how they envisaged that their product could be used as teaching aids. Teachers are left to devise their teaching strategies from scratch and alone. This means that the only obvious advantage of this particular series is that it provides the live faces of various participants where teachers may traditionally have relied on written reconstructions of the stories of the participants. Given that teaching time is pressurised and that institutional resources for purchasing teaching aids is extremely limited, it is possible that some (possibly most) teachers will wait for a more comprehensive teaching product.

This kind of criticism could be extended to the content of the tapes themselves. Given the breadth of interest of the prospective audience, it would have been useful if the tapes had included perhaps only at the end as a kind of addendum some basic background information about the disciplines that are involved in dealing with the problems that these cases raise. Lawyers have no or very little psychology or sociology. Students of psychology and sociology have a similarly limited perspective on law. When each is asked to consider the resolution of these problems it would seem appropriate that they should have some notion of the contribution of the others. Again it seems teachers will bear the responsibility of bringing students to the point of having that basic breadth of knowledge. Of course, this is probably what teachers are currently doing. The failure of the tapes to set the problems up in their institutional context (or to background them in the various disciplines), however, merely lessens their prospective appeal to teachers. They do less than they could have done (or could have been expected to do).

Despite these shortcomings, the tapes do provide 'live' scenarios with real faces which teachers (certainly in law) rarely get to use in the context of traumatised childhood. To that extent they will be useful, but only where the particular teacher has prepared a comprehensive exercise that includes them.

This is an IT Review published on 26 February 1999.

Citation: Lind C et al, 'Traumatised Children - Juvenile Delinquent, and Traumatised Children - A Case of Sexual Abuse', IT Review, 1999 (1) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <>

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