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Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Evidence, theory, policy & practice

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Presentation on theme: "Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Evidence, theory, policy & practice"— Presentation transcript:

1 Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Evidence, theory, policy & practice
Stephen Smallbone School of Criminology & Criminal Justice Griffith University, Australia

2 Seminar Outline Evidence, theory, policy and practice Discussion
Empirical dimensions of CSA An integrated theory Prevention models Knowledge-based, prevention-centred policy and practice Discussion

3 Empirical dimensions CSA offenders almost always male
No other identifying characteristic as consistently observed as male gender Two main risk periods for the onset of CSA offending adolescence novelty & urgency of sexual drive; low stake in social conformity; low self-control; ready access to younger children early middle-age Have own children, or friends who have children; child-related employment; relationship instability?

4 Empirical dimensions CSA offenders likely to know victim
Often for considerable period of time before first abuse incident Often a parental or quasi-parental relationship Involves authority and guardianship CSA often occurs in the context of either aggression or (paradoxically) nurturance Abuse-related motivations likely to be very different for potential, novice, and persistent offenders

5 Empirical dimensions Victim characteristics
Risk of victimisation varies by age, gender and circumstances Girls approx twice as likely to be victims Girls more at risk of sustained abuse, at younger age, in familial settings Boys more at risk of short-term abuse, at older age, in nonfamilial settings Risks for CSA similar to those for other kinds of maltreatment General individual and family vulnerabilities More adverse outcomes associated with Abuse by father/father figure Longer duration Force or violence Lack of support, esp following disclosure

6 Empirical dimensions Abuse settings
Ordinary settings where adults (or adolescents) and children involved together in routine activities Domestic settings (most common) Organisational settings (common) Public settings (uncommon) The social ecology of sexual abuse Risk & protective factors located at multiple levels of the offender’s and victim’s social ecologies Individual; family; peers; school/workplace; neighbourhood; socio-cultural environment Capable guardians; handlers; place managers

7 An integrated theory Biological foundations
Behavioural flexibility in the service of biological goals Potential for both prosocial and antisocial behaviour Individual survival attachment (care-seeking) system Reproduction sexual system nurturing (care-taking) system Male sexuality associated with both aggression and nurturance Attachment, nurturing & sexual systems biologically related Male preference for smaller, younger sexual partners For males, nurturing system more susceptible to competing motivations

8 An integrated theory Developmental influences
Positive social cognitive development generally restrains, but does not eliminate, capacity for antisocial conduct Mechanisms of self-restraint Empathy & perspective taking; emotional self-regulation; personal & social attachments Control theory offenders don’t learn to commit sexual offences, they fail to learn not to offending constrained by self-control; informal social controls; formal social controls

9 An integrated theory Ecological influences Situational influences
Proximal systems (family/peers) exert more direct influence than distal systems (neighbourhood/socio-cultural environment) Cultural/subcultural norms & values Routine activities of offenders & victims Formal & informal systems for effective child protection Situational influences Specific situational elements that comprise the immediate pre-offence and offence setting Situations as opportunity Situations evoke offence-related motivations Cues; temptations; perceived provocations; social pressures; permissibility

10 Prevention models Public Health model Primary (universal) prevention
Preventing potential victims from ever being abused; preventing potential offenders from ever offending Secondary prevention Focuses on ‘at risk’ people, groups and places Tertiary prevention Preventing repeat / re-victimisation; preventing recidivism

11 Prevention models Tonry & Farrington’s (1995) Crime Prevention Model
Developmental crime prevention Aims to reduce number of potential offenders by targeting developmental risk and protective factors Situational crime prevention Aims to reduce criminogenic features of potential abuse settings Community development approaches Mobilising communities to focus on specific local crime problems Criminal Justice interventions Detection & investigation; general and specific deterrence; general and selective incapacitation; offender rehabilitation

12 Prevention models Proposed prevention model Three levels of prevention
Primary, secondary and tertiary Four essential targets Offenders, victims, situations, communities Thus, 12 points of focus (3 levels x 4 targets)

13 Twelve points of focus for preventing CSA
Primary prevention Secondary prevention Tertiary prevention Offenders General deterrence Developmental prevention Help-lines Incapacitation Specific deterrence Offender treatment Victims Personal safety programs Resilience building Support for at-risk children Harm minimisation Preventing repeat victimisation Situations Opportunity reduction Extended guardianship Situational prevention in at- risk places & organisations Safety plans Relapse prevention Organisational interventions Communities Public education Community capacity-building Interventions with at-risk communities high-prevalence communities

14 Policy & practice Shift toward prevention-centred policy and practice required “Prevention Science” Broad definition of ‘evidence-based’ policy/practice Concerned with much more than whether a specific technique or program has been shown to ‘work’ Should draw from the widest possible knowledge-base Knowledge as empirical evidence + coherent/testable theory e.g. developmental, social, clinical psychology developmental & environmental criminology evolutionary, social ecology & developmental theories Can draw from wide repertoire of proven or promising interventions

15 Discussion points Is it helpful to think about child sexual abuse as a wholly unique and distinct phenomenon, requiring its own unique explanations and its own unique solutions? What can we learn from prevention efforts in related fields? What are the barriers to translating knowledge and expertise to knowledge-based policy and practice?


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