What Can Social Workers Do to Help Safeguard Children from Child Sexual Abuse and Is Inter-Agency Collaboration Effective?

Published: 2023/07/06 Number of words: 2548

Becker-Blease, K., Friend, D. & Freyd, J.J. (2006) ‘Child Sex Abuse Perpetrators Among Male University Students’, Scholars’ Bank [online], http://hdl.handle.net/1794/4318, Date accessed 15/10/2021.

Becker-Blease, Friend & Freyd (2006) look at the prevalence of child sex abuse and those with the potential for being such offenders, via a sample of 531 undergraduate men. In the study, the sample were asked about their experience of abuse as a child, along with any offences committed, and their sexual fantasies. It was found that 18% of the sample reported fantasies about child sex abuse, with 8% having masturbated to these fantasies. Moreover, 4% of the sample indicated that there was some likelihood that they would have sex with a child, while 2.5% reported having committed a sexual related offence against a child, at least once. Thus, it was found that more of the sample admitted to fantasies about child sex than in the past, and it is mused that this may be due to the wider availability of child pornography on the Internet.

Beitchman, J.H., Zucker, K.J., Hood, J.E., DaCosta, G.A., Akman, D. & Cassavia, E. (1992) ‘A review of the long-term effects of child sexual abuse’, Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 101-118.

This study done by Beitchman, Zucker, Hood, DaCosta, Akman & Cassavia (1992, p. 101-118) looks at the long-term effects of CSA by looking at some 32 studies on this subject, with a cumulative sample of some 10,859 participants, and a prevalence rate of 29% (although it should be noted that this is high due to many studies targeting those who have been sexually abused as children, or those groups who have a higher prevalence rate – such as those incarcerated for CSA themselves). It was found that adults who have been abused as children have a higher rate of mental and physical dysfunction; and particularly with regards to sexual dysfunction, depression, anxiety, fearful thoughts, or suicidal ideas – while a greater propensity towards homosexuality was also noted.

Briere, J. & Runtz, M. (1987) ‘Post Sexual Abuse Trauma Data and Implications for Clinical Practice’, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 2, No. 4, pp. 367-379.

This paper by Briere & Runtz (1987, pp. pp. 367-379) examines post sexual abuse trauma and implications for clinical practice, and in a clinical sample of 152 adult women at a health crisis centre, it was found that 44% reported a childhood history of sexual victimisation. Moreover, it is also found that such victimisation is associated with increased levels of dissociation, sleep disturbances, heightened tension, sexual problems, and anger – in addition to a greater use of psychoactive medications, a predisposition towards suicide attempts, substance addiction, and repeated victimisation.

Briere, J. & Runtz, M. (1990) ‘Differential adult symptomatology associated with three types of child abuse histories’, Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 357-364.

This study done by Briere & Runtz (1990, pp. 357-364) looks at university women’s retrospective reports of CSA, and how this impacted upon self-esteem, aggression levels, and sexual behaviour. In a sample of some 277 female students in the United States, it was found that psychological child sex abuse is associated with low self-esteem, while physical child sex abuse is linked to aggression and maladaptive sexual behaviour; and it is concluded that: “various types of child abuse have both specific and overlapping effects on later psychosocial functioning” (Briere & Runtz, 1990, p. 361).

Chase, E. & Statham, J. (2005) ‘Commercial and sexual exploitation of children and young people in the UK—a review’, Child Abuse Review, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 4-25.

This article examines the commercial and sexual exploitation of children in the United Kingdom, by reviewing recent information and data relevant to this. The focus for the discourse by Chase & Statham (2005) is on: (1) abuse via pornography, (2) abuse via prostitution, and (3) the trafficking of children and young people. It is noted how abusers typically target vulnerable children and young people, and the Internet is cited as a tool that can be used for such nefarious crimes. It is concluded that knowledge is limited in this area, and so much more needs to be done.

Davies, E.A. & Jones, A.C. (2013) ‘Risk factors in child sexual abuse’, Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, Vol. 20, No. 3, pp. 146-150.

This study looks at some risk factors when it comes to child sexual abuse (CSA). A sample of 138 cases was looked at, highlighting some common themes and risks factors in these cases. It was found that out of all of these cases, the most common risk factors for CSA were alcohol and drug use, with prevalence increasing with the age of the victim, and the modal age of victims being 15 years old, and predominantly white females. It is therefore concluded that alcohol and drug use may be an area in which preventative strategies could be used, although it is conceded that ethnic minorities might also hold a large number of unreported cases, which could help to explain the white ethnic concentration in this sample.

Dombrowski, S.C., Gischlar, K.L. & Durst, T. (2007) ‘Safeguarding young people from cyber pornography and cyber sexual predation: a major dilemma of the internet’, Child Abuse Review, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 153-170.

This paper looks at the dangers of Internet when it comes to child sex abuse, with it being noted that the Internet can be detrimental to the wellbeing of children, due to the potential for such children to be exploited and abuse via cyberspace, as a result of online sexual solicitation. As a result, it is highlighted that such children need safeguarding from such activities, and given education in safe Internet usage. As such, this article provides a discussion for such issues, with it being underlined that society requires a conceptual shift in attitudes when it comes to the use of the Internet by young people.

Donnelly, S. (2009) ‘The Media and the Catholic Church in Ireland: Reporting Clerical Child Sex Abuse’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 25, No. 1, pp. 1-19.

This study examines the media and the Catholic Church in Ireland, and how clerical child sex abuse is reported on. It is argued that heretofore, insufficient attention has been given towards the relationship between the church and the media, and it is noted that the media must act as a watchdog when it comes to clerical child sex abuse. It is suggested that the media has become a big influence in shaping public attitudes towards religion, and that the Catholic Church is no longer able to influence the media as it once did.

Finkelhor, D. (1994) ‘The International Epidemiology of Child Sexual Abuse’, Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 18, No. 5, pp. 409-417.

This study conducted by Finkelhor (1994, pp. 409-417) also looks at CSA on a global scale, in some nineteen countries. The rates of CSA in these studies were found to range from 7% to 36% for women, and from 3%-29% for men. However, it is also concluded that few comparisons among these countries can be made due to methodological and definitional differences. Nevertheless, what can be said based upon this study, is that CSA is an international problem – with the only question remaining being that of the degree and extent of it around the world.

Gorey, K.M. & Leslie, D.R. (1997) ‘The prevalence of child sexual abuse: Integrative review adjustment for potential response and measurement biases’, Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 21, No. 4, pp. 391-398.

This study by Gorey & Leslie (1997, pp. 391-398) synthesises the findings from 16 cross-sectional surveys and looks at the prevalence of child abuse in North America. It is found that response rates in such surveys have diminished significantly over time, from around 68% in 1985, to around 49% in more recent surveys. Moreover, prevalence rates of CSA after adjustment were found to be 14.5% for females, and 7.2% for males, with this level not varying much in the three decades that were reviewed. It is recommended that a large, methodologically rigorous study is carried out to confirm these findings in the present epoch.

Hartill, M. (2013) ‘Concealment of Child Sexual Abuse in Sports’, Quest, Vol. 65, No. 2, pp. 241-254.

Hartill (2013) examines the concealment of child sex abuse (CSA) in sports, with it being noted that often, when a case of CSA is revealed, it is found that another non-abusing adult was aware of the abuse, but failed to take action. Indeed, this phenomenon is shown to have historical roots, and by drawing upon Bourdieu’s critique of the Catholic Church, it is shown that the concealment of CSA is widespread in organised sporting institutions. Therefore, it is concluded that the emergence of child protection frameworks within sport should be joined with more reflexive analyses if any improvement is to be made in this area.

Hessick, C.B. (2011) ‘Disentangling Child Pornography From Child Sex Abuse’, Washington University Law Review, Vol. 88, pp. 853.

This paper looks at how criminal penalties for the use of child pornography have proliferated in recent years, with the distinction being made between actual child sex abuse and the use of child pornography beginning to become blurred. Thus, criminal sentences for child pornography use have been justified via arguments that such acts are as bad as child sex abuse itself, because it fuels an industry that engages in child sex abuse. However, Hessick (2011) argues that by merging any distinction between these two crimes, it may be misleading the public into thinking that child sex abuse is being adequately tackled by law enforcement agencies, with crime statistics no longer separating these two crimes. Therefore, it is recommended that there needs to be a review of current sentencing for child pornography offences, with several possible areas of reform being suggested.

Jack, G. & Gill, O. (2009) ‘The role of communities in safeguarding children and young people’, Child Abuse Review, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 82-96.

This study examines the role that communities might play in the safeguarding of children and young people, with it being stated from the outset that child safeguarding policies have traditionally focussed on individual and family-level explanation of abuse and neglect, with little attention being given towards community-level factors. As such, it is suggested that more attention is given towards the impact of the community on such circumstances, with the Every Child Matter and the Children’s Plan being drawn upon from recent policy developments to underscore the need for such consideration.

Jumper, S. (1995) ‘A meta-analysis of the relationship of child sexual abuse to adult psychological symptoms’, Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 19, No. 6, pp. 715-728.

This paper by Jumper (1995, pp. 715-728) provides a meta-analysis on the relationship between CSA and adult psychological adjustment. It was found that there is a statistically significant relationship between the experience of CSA and difficulties in psychological adjustment later in life, including depression and self-esteem issues. However, it was also found that these effects were lower in student samples, than in community or clinical samples – suggesting that education has a positive effect on people who have experienced CSA.

Muridzo, N.G. & Malianga, E. (2015) ‘Child sexual abuse in Zimbabwe: prevention strategies for social workers’, African Journal of Social Work, Vol. 5, No. 2.

This paper examines the phenomenon of child sexual abuse (CSA) in the country of Zimbabwe in Africa, where there is a growing concern about this type of abuse, as reflected in statistics, debates, and scientific interest. It is discussed how CSA tends to cross-cultural and economic boundaries, and can lead to long-lasting problems for individuals who have been abused, and their families. Thus, it is noted that social workers must intervene in such cases of abuse on the individual and family level, as well as the societal level. As such, some prevention strategies are offered, using Melli’s model of prevention of CSA at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. It is concluded that social workers in Zimbabwe have a big role to play in mitigating CSA.

Pearce, J. (2006) ‘Who needs to be involved in safeguarding sexually exploited young people?’ Child Abuse Review, Vol. 15, No. 5, pp. 326-340.

Pearce (2006) asks exactly who should be involved in the safeguarding of sexually exploited young people, who are currently supported via intervention that are co-ordinated by local authorities. A number of case studies and research articles are drawn from, and it is suggested from this review that some of the problems that sexually exploited young people face can be best addressed through interventions that draw on child protection, domestic violence, and youth work policies and procedures. However, as this is only a suggestion, more research is required in this area, to better inform policymakers and practitioners.

Pereda, N., Guilera, G., Forns, M. & Gomez-Benito, J. (2009) ‘The International Epidemiology of Child Sexual Abuse: A Continuation of Finkelhor (1994)’, Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 33, pp. 331-342.

This study by Pereda, Guilera, Forns & Gomez-Benito (2009b, pp. 331-342) compares the prevalence rates of CSA reported by Finkelhor (1994, pp. 409-417) with more recent publications in this area. Thirty-nine prevalence studies were drawn from, which report on CSA prevalence rates in some twenty-one counties – with prevalence rates ranging from 0-53% for women, and 0-60% for men. However, it is concluded that high prevalence rates are present in most countries, and this, according to Pereda, Guilera, Forns & Gomez-Benito (2009b, p. 331), should serve as a warning to governments around the world to take immediate action.

Rachamim, E.S. & Hodes, D. (2011) ‘Attitudes and knowledge held about the role of the paediatrician in cases of child sexual abuse (CSA): a comparison between the police, paediatricians and social workers’, Archives of Diseases in Childhood, Vol. 96, No. 1.

This study conducted by Rachamim & Hodes (2011) looks compares attitudes towards child sexual abuse (CSA) between the three agencies of the police, paediatricians, and social workers. The rationale for the study is that although it is estimated that 15% of children experience CSA, only a half of these are referred to a paediatrician, and so this is something that needs investigating. Online surveys were utilised with multiple agencies, and it was found that the role of the paediatrician in CSA cases was unclear, and it is concluded that this uncertainty is what is causing inconsistent referrals to paediatricians in such cases.

Shepard-Payne, J., Galvan, F.H., Williams, J.K., Prusinski, M., Zhang, M., Wyatt, G.E. & Myers, H.F. (2014) ‘Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on the Emotions and Behaviours of Adult Men from Three Ethnic Groups in the USA’, Culture, Health & Sexuality, Vol. 10.

This study conducted by Shepard-Payne, Galvan, Williams, Prusinski, Zhang, Wyatt & Myers (2014, n.p.) looks at adult men of different ethnic backgrounds in the United States who have experienced CSA, in the context of the psychological and behavioural consequences of CSA in adulthood. In a sample of 150 males (with 100% of the sample experiencing CSA due to this being one of the conditions of being accepted as a participant), it was found that ethnically diverse men may respond differently to CSA experiences, and so it is concluded that these differences must be considered by healthcare professionals when providing care to men with such CSA histories.

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