Thesis Title

Five Graphic Indicators of Sexual Abuse

Graduation Date

Spring 1994

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


The purpose of this study is to look at five indicators of sexual abuse outlined by Drs. Nancy Sidun and Ronald Rosenthal (1987), head only, omitted hands, omitted fingers, circles, and line pressure. Data from their study indicated that these indicators were present at a statistically significant level in the Draw-A-Person (DAP) assessment test of psychiatrically hospitalized adolescents. The intention of this study was to observe if these indicators were also present to a statistically significant degree in the DAPs of sexually abused adolescents with less disturbance. The results of this study suggest that three of the five indicators were found to be repeated in the drawings. This was not to say that they could be used as the “sole indication” of sexual abuse, but that they are clear red flags that should be used in conjunction with other clinical information. The DAP was chosen as the appropriate assessment instrument because as Lowenfeld and Brittain state (cited by Sidun and Rosenthal, 1987), “The first representational symbol usually attempted by children is a person”. Many educators, art therapists, and psychologists have encouraged the use of projective drawings to gather information about an individual, this serves as a statement of comparison and makes it reasonable to hypothesize that sexually abused adolescents produce drawings that contain unique elements specific to sexual abuse. On this basis it makes sense to utilize these drawings to enhance the awareness of clinicians of the affects of sexual abuse as well as help identify these victims. This study was conducted in an effort to identify repeated indicators that are specific to sexual abuse and help validate the efforts of the previous research.