Who's to Blame?: Child Sexual Abuse and Non-Offending Mothers


234 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-7727-7
DDC 362.76'3'0971




Reviewed by Ashley Thomson

Ashley Thomson is a full librarian at Laurentian University and co-editor or co-author of nine books, most recently Margaret Atwood: A Reference Guide, 1988-2005.


When children disclose that they have been sexually abused by family
members or persons known to their mothers, all too often the mothers are
blamed for the abuse, because they “knew or should have known” of
its existence and did nothing. Such a mindset is shared by the police,
child-welfare workers, doctors, relatives, and even the mothers
themselves. In addressing the assumption that mothers of victims are
normally guilty as charged, the author interviewed players in the system
(e.g., social workers and psychiatrists) and conducted an extensive
review of the literature. Although the research was conducted in
Ontario, Carter is of the opinion that its conclusions would be of
interest across North America.

Carter acknowledges that “some mothers may well fail to protect their
children from abuse, intentionally and/or unintentionally.” At the
same time, she makes a powerful case that such women are in a minority.
In Chapter 11, the book’s most challenging chapter, she discusses the
implications of her research for the social service system. Who’s to
Blame? belongs in every academic library and on the desks of
child-welfare workers, doctors, educators, police, judges, and


Carter, Betty Joyce., “Who's to Blame?: Child Sexual Abuse and Non-Offending Mothers,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/30193.