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Professional response and attitudes toward female-perpetrated child sexual abuse : a study of psychologists, probationary psychologists and child protection workers

journal contribution
posted on 01.06.2010, 00:00 authored by David MellorDavid Mellor, Rebecca Deering
Previous studies have suggested that lay people and professionals both tend to deny or minimise female-perpetrated sexual abuse of children. However, such abuse has been shown to have negative impacts on the victims. This study investigated whether professionals who might work with victims or perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse show a bias in processing scenarios and making decisions when confronted such abuse. A sample of 231 psychiatrists, psychologists, probationary psychologists and child protection workers responded to variations in vignettes in which women and men offended against children, and completed a questionnaire assessing attitudes to women's sexually abusive/offending behaviour toward children. All professional groups regarded cases involving female perpetrators of child sexual abuse as serious and deserving of professional attention. However, while there were some differences between groups, female perpetrators were more likely than male perpetrators to be considered leniently, suggesting that minimisation of female-perpetrated sexual abuse of children may persist in the professional arena. As a result, both female perpetrators of sexual abuse and their victims may go untreated, and in the case of perpetrators, their behaviour may go unsanctioned. Training for professionals to enhance their understanding of the seriousness of sexual abuse perpetrated by women is indicated.

History

Journal

Psychology, crime and law

Volume

16

Issue

5

Pagination

415 - 438

Publisher

Routledge

Location

London, England

ISSN

1068-316X

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2010, Taylor & Francis