Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Evidence, Policy and Practice

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Evidence, Policy and Practice

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Evidence, Policy and Practice

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Evidence, Policy and Practice

Synopsis

Public policy responses to child sexual abuse are dominated by interventions designed to take effect only after offenders have already begun offending, and after children have already been sexually abused. Comparatively little attention has been given to alternative prevention strategies - particularly to those aimed at preventing sexual abuse before it might otherwise occur. Considerable knowledge has been accumulated on the characteristics, modus operandiand persistence of offenders, the characteristics, circumstances and outcomes for victims, and the physical and social settings in which sexual abuse occurs, but little work has been done to systematically apply this knowledge to prevention.

This book aims to fulfill this objective through integrating clinical and criminological concepts and knowledge to inform a more comprehensive and effective public policy approach to preventing child sexual abuse. Empirical and theoretical knowledge concerning child sexual abuse is integrated with broader developments in evidence-based crime and child maltreatment prevention, leading to new ideas about understanding and preventing child sexual abuse. This book will be essential reading for anybody with interests in this field.

Excerpt

Although child sexual abuse (CSA) is generally referred to as a distinct and singular phenomenon, there is a remarkably wide range of circumstances and events that may constitute CSA. Wide variations have been observed in the characteristics, modus operandi and persistence of CSA offenders, in the characteristics, circumstances and outcomes for victims, and in the physical and social settings in which CSA occurs.

These multiple dimensions of CSA, and the wide variations within them, may at first seem to make the task of prevention overwhelmingly difficult, if not impossible. However, it is important to recognise that on virtually none of these dimensions is the incidence of CSA evenly distributed. Not all children are equally at risk of falling victim to sexual abuse, not all victims will be affected in the same way, not all adolescents and adults are equally at risk of becoming offenders, not all offenders are equally at risk of proceeding to a chronic pattern of offending, and not all physical and social environments present the same risk for CSA to occur.

The first step towards developing a comprehensive, evidencebased approach to preventing CSA is therefore to understand the patterns of variation within, and the interactions between, its key empirical dimensions. To the extent these patterns can be reliably identified, the focus of prevention strategies can be narrowed, and prevention resources can accordingly be prioritised. Notwithstanding the limitations of the current knowledge base, the main aim of the present chapter is to specify where, when, how, to whom and by whom CSA occurs. We will turn our attention to the equally important question of why CSA occurs in the next chapter.

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