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What do we know about sexual abuse?

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Debbie Allnock

on 12 June 2015

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Transcript of What do we know about sexual abuse?

What do we know about sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse
'Discovery of sexual abuse'
How common is it?
Contexts of sexual abuse

Sex offenders - who are they? How do they offend? Grooming, etc...
Impacts of sexual abuse & resilience
Ecological model of protective and risk factors

How common is sexual abuse?
How do we know what we know?
Impacts of sexual abuse
Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative (e.g. rape or buggery) or nonpenetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

Working together, 1999
Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, including
, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative (e.g. rape, buggery or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of,
sexual online images
, watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

Working together, 2006
“Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities,
not necessarily involving a high level of violence
, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or
grooming a child
in preparation for abuse (including via the internet). Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males.
Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children

Working together, 2010
Child protection register stats (source: taken from Department for Education (2012) Statistics of children in need in England 2011-2012. Table D5. DfE: London)

2010 - 2,300
2011 - 2,400
2012 - 2,200
Q. Do you think this accurately represents the numbers of children sexually abused?
National surveys help to capture sexual abuse in the ‘general population’ (rather than just those in the care system)
NSPCC has carried out two national surveys in 2000 and 2009 (Source: Radford et al., 2011)

One in 20 children (4.8%) have experienced contact sexual abuse.

Over 90% of children who experienced sexual abuse, were abused by someone they knew.

Q. Do you think these accurately represent the numbers of children sexually abused?
How would you describe sex offenders? Who are they?
Societal level risk and protective factors

"Discovery" of sexual abuse
Physical health
Short term/immediate
Blood loss, torn hymen
Painful urination among boys

Mental health
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Dissociative disorders
Personality disorders
Vulnerability to repeated harm

Behaviour and relationships
Attach to dangerous adults
Risky sexual behaviour
Harmful sexual behaviour (towards others)
Illicit drug use
Prostitution/sexual exploitation
Criminal behaviour
Intimacy problems
Pregnancy problems (i.e. breastfeeding)
Parenting problems
Intergenerational transmission**

Long term
Poor views of physical health
Psychosomatic symptoms
Musculoskeletal pain
Eating disorders
Substance misuse
Sleep problems

Future opportunities and adversities
Poorer educational outcomes
Poorer socioeconomic status
'Revictimisation' in later life
Not all children who have been sexually abused will go on to have problems

Not all children will experience all of the impacts mentioned, to the same degree

Some believe between 20 and 40% go on to be resilient after their experiences
Four traumagenic dynamics model (Finkelhor et al., 1986)
Traumatic sexualisation
Sexuality, sexual feelings, and attitudes develop inappropriately or dysfunctionally
Child's will is constantly contravened
Shame and guilt are constantly reinforced and become part of child's self-image
Harm caused by someone the child depended on
Q. Who is more likely to be a perpetrator of SA? a) someone known to a child or b) a stranger
Females can and do perpetrate SA

But most abuse is carried out by men - over 90%
'Models' and 'modus operandi' of male and female perpetrators are different
Female perpetrators
Male perpetrators
Heterogeneous group!

No 'single' profile of a sex offender

Many look 'just like us'

Public perception of 'evil' monsters only one subgroup
High and low deviance offenders (Beech, 2009)

Situated and preferential (Holmes & Holmes, 2002)

Male coerced
Female pedophiles
Criminal career

(Matthews et al., 1989)
Research shows girls are more likely to be SA than boys** (Radford et al., 2011)
Girls and boys are equally likely to show impacts of abuse but patterns may be different
Research shows disabled children are 3.1 times more likely to be SA than non-disabled children
Children with communication and behavioural difficulties
Minority ethnic communities
Don't know for sure
Sexual abuse occurs in all societies, communities, groups
In some communities, cultural norms may make disclosure and reporting more difficult
Theories of offending
e.g. Finkelhor
Stage 1 - Motivation (emotional congruence; sexual arousal; inadequate social skills)
Stage 2 - Overcoming internal inhibitions (Cognitive distortions; disinhibited behavior)
Stage 3 - Overcoming external barriers (Carer issues; isolation of child from family)
Stage 4 - Overcoming the will of the child (coercion, grooming)
** Perceived vulnerability in a child is key
Prevalence unknown/only anecdotal evidence

Children often accused of falsifying accounts

Absolute disbelief that educated men could commit SA

No recognition of mental health issues - was more of a 'moral' issue threatening marriage
19th century
Sigmund Freud
*Challenged that SA was a product of hysterical 'lies'
*Recognised the psychological impacts
*Recognised the power imbalance
**Seduction theory

However, he changed his mind! Probably to save his career/reputation
'Re' acknowledged his own work as flawed and that stories of SA were merely fantasies
Current / modern thinking
'Discovery' of child abuse in general (i.e. Kempe/ Battered baby syndrome

Feminist analysis/ Domestic violence movement

Increase/ proliferation of research on sexual abuse
'Selection' of victims
Perceived vulnerability (e.g. family problems; quiet; alone, etc)

Perceived 'special relationship'

'Recruiting' victims
'Grooming' (giving gifts, taking on trips, etc...)
Grooming the child's family
Develop a friendship - teach them a sport/musical instrument; play games
Use of affection/love/care
Silencing victims
*Telling a child not to tell
*Portraying the abuse as a game
*Portraying the abuse as the child's fault - that they took part willingly
*Direct threats of physical violence
*Threatening to tell childs' parent/s
*Threatening the child's family

Cognitive distortions
- Justify offending behaviour
-Victim blame
-Excusing sexually abusive behaviour
-Misinterprets child's behaviour; perceives sexual intent
-Treatment involves management of perceived sexual entitlement
Sexual exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity in exchange for things such as money, gifts, accommodation, affection or status.
1) 'Inappropriate relationships' model: Older perpetrators - exercising financial, emotional, physical control

2) 'Boyfriend/pimp' or 'party' models: peers - manipulating/forcing into sexual activity

3) Sometimes within a context of gangs, but not always

4) Opportunistic/organised networks; profiting through trafficking
Office of the Children's Commissioner research

1) Assaults are violent and degrading; humiliating and controlling
2) Oral and anal rape most commonly reported types
3) Can also be non-contact - use of technology increasingly common
How much SE is there?

Difficult to know - no recognised category of SE; Data is often partial, unrecorded or hidden in other categories of data

Some YP not aware; manipulated into thinking they are in loving relationship
TheChildren's Commissioner's enquiry into SE in groups and gangs confirmed 2,049 victims from August 2010 to October 2011

Evidence suggests that ~16,000 young people are at risk of SE
Signs and symptoms of SE
*Inappropriate/sexualised behaviour
*Repeat STIs/pregnancies/abortions/miscarriages
*Having unaffordable new things
*Going to unusual locations to meet friends (i.e. hotels)
*In cars with unknown adults
*Going missing from home or care
*Having older boyfriends/girlfriends
*Truancy, missing school, disengaging
*Involvement in drugs, alcohol, crime

of SE
There is much we don't know
*YP don't know real names
*Circumstances mean they are difficult to identify
*Most are men/boys (72% of OCC study)
*Most are White followed by Asian
*Ages 12-75 (in gangs, mostly 13-25)
Positions of trust
SO Act 2003 provides specifically to protect those age 16-17 (age of consent, though still thought to be vulnerable) - addresses power imbalance
Roles defined in law (examples)
*Connexions advisors
*Foster carers

Specific settings:
*Educational settings
*Residential care homes
*Youth offender institutions
How common?
Unknown - no central mechanism for reporting this data
*NSPCC prevalence study - less than 1% of 18-24 year olds reported this

Individual risk and protective factors
Risk factors
Age of child

Prior victimisation

Low self esteem

**Perceived vulnerability
Protective factors
Hobbies and interests

Positive self esteem

Active coping style

risk & protective factors
Risk factors
Domestic violence
Social isolation/lack social support
Parent with past history of abuse **
Bonding/attachment difficulties
Parental psychopathology
Protective factors
Secure attachments with parent

Warm parent child relationships

Supportive extended family

Good peer relationships
Neighbourhood / community
risk & protective factors
Risk factors
Low socio-economic status
Lack of access to support / health services
Dangerous /violent neighbourhoods
Protective factors
Access to health care, social services and other support (youth services)

Supportive community/adults

Social cohesion
Societal level risk & protective factors
Risk factors
Cultural values/beliefs tolerating sexual abuse or exploitation (e.g. sexualisation of children)

Gender inequality
Protective factors
Enforcement of legal protection

Gender equality

Children's rights
Risk & protection - Ecological framework for identifying elevated or decreased risk for sexual abuse
Sexual abuse by known adults
NSPCC study:
Contact/non-contact SA by parent/guardian relatively rare - 1.7% (1.5% females; .6% males)
Online sexual abuse
(Davidson et al., 2011)
Internet sex offender behaviours
Constructing sites for exchange of information

Organisation of criminal activities (using children for prostitution; sharing indecent images)

Organisation of criminal activities that promote sex tourism
Internet offender 'types'
Those that groom children online for purposes of sexual abuse (Finklehor et al., 2000)

Those who produce/download indecent images and distribute them (Davidson & Martellozzo, 2005)
Online images
NSPCC - 20,000 images uploaded each week (Davidson et al., 2011)

58% domains traced showed penetration/torture
69% 10 years old or younger
74% are selling images
Most hosted outside the UK
(Internet Watch foundation 2008)
Prevention & protection

- covered by the SO Act 2003, section 15 (internet, mobile phones & the 'real' world)
CEOP & others
- direct education to children & parents, teachers

International prevention measures
(e.g. InSafe network - "Safer Internet Day")

Work with ISP's
(e.g. Google)

Virtual Global Taskforce
- ID perps

Signs and symptoms of SA
Developmental stages
*Pre-school children should not be talking about sex
*School age children (6-12 years) should not be be showing adult like behaviour or knowledge about sex
*Adolescents (13-16) should not be having sexual contact with younger children or older adults

At any age.....
Nightmares, sleeping problems
Changes in personality
Outbursts of anger
Using toys or other objects in a sexual way
Changes in eating habits
Inexplicable fear of particular people or places
Regressing to younger behaviours
Becoming secretive
Among non-resident adults, it is known adults that pose the greatest risk to those under age 11 (relatives, neighbours or family friends)
For older age groups it is strangers or unknown adults who are more frequently reported by young people
Direct or indirect disclosures

To be covered in greater detail next week!
Both short & long term impacts
Some impacts may take time to emerge

Other contexts include...
Sexual abuse by peers (~25% of girls report dating violence of this type- Barter et al., 2009)
Sexual abuse/violence in war and conflict
Forced marriages
Sexual violence within traditional practices (FGM)
Sexual bullying in schools and in the community (and online; mobile phones)
High deviancy offenders:
‘High levels of pro-offending attitudes and social inadequacy problems’.
Distorted attitudes to children.
Low levels of control.
Lack of victim empathy.
Poor adult attachments.
Low self-esteem.
A likelihood to ‘groom victims’.
A higher treatment need than low deviancy child abusers (twice as much)
Low deviancy offenders
A low treatment need.
Less distorted cognition’s towards children.
Fewer social inadequacy problems.
Less emotional identification with children.
Committed less offences outside the family.
A likelihood to target girls within the family.
- does not prefer children but offend under certain conditions
Morally indiscriminate
- true preference is children
Mysoped - sadistic & violent
Fixated- little or no activity with adults/ 'overgrown child'
Cross all professions, not just Catholic Church!

Some choose career in order to gain access to children

Others are opportunistic


CRB necessary but not sufficient

Situational prevention important
An exploitative process preparatory to sexual abuse to reduce risk of detection; increase vulnerability and compliance of child
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