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The reality of community understandings of sexual violence ...

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Dr Kieran McCartanUniversity of the West of England & Robina Visiting Scholar (Spring 2013)
The societal context of Child Sexual Abuse and Paedophilia.A range of perspectives on attitudes to Child Sexual Abuse and Paedophilia.The taking a renewed approach to Child Sexual Abuse and Paedophilia.What Professional engagement can do to help community engagement .
Social construction and sex crime
Giventhatbothoffenders and victims are members of society,thatsexual offences and the responses are socialconstructions,thismeans that the constructions andConversationsthat are created around sexual violence are very important.
Media discourses and paedophilia/Child Sexual Abuse
The media has contributed to the steady increase in the visibility of child sexual abuse insociety.Although the media has discussed paedophiliamoretheConversation they have and language theyuse is problematic:paedophiles are generally described in aone dimensional, homogenousway;describingpaedophiles asevil,beyondrehabilitation &Advocatingpunishment;PaedophilesandCSA areoften discussed as being the same;Mediarepresentations contribute to an unrealistic and inappropriate socialconstruction.
Professional discourses and Child Sexual Abuse andPaedophilia
Professionalstend to have no cohesive ‘voice’different definitions of paedophiliaand CSA;clinical classifications are of paedophilianot CSA;legal definitions focus on the offence ofCSAandnot the offender;policy maker definitions and understandings focus around public protection and risk management;academic definitions are broader and more aligned to the policy maker approach, but this is varied depending on discipline and author.
Public discourses and Child Sexual Abuse andPaedophilia
Research with thepublic, in general, indicatesthat the public...concernedaboutCSA and Paedophilia;understandingsof sexoffendersaremixed atbest;paedophilesare evil, dangerous and a constantthreat;treatmentdoes not work and that a punitive responseis best;recognisethat the paedophile who sexually offends has friends/family/peers which the public has conflicted feelingsabout;recognisethat convicted offenders will be returned tocommunities;shouldbe involved in sex offender management throughpartnership;The public do not trust the state to take care of sex offendersappropriately.
There are Multiple“Publics”theirunderstandings and reactionsto paedophilia/CSA are different;somepublics who are interested in, invested in understanding sexual offendingtheseengaged publicsreadthe available literature, engage with the relevant media and get involved with the associated charities and NGO.Meaning that anydiscussionof paedophilia/CSAdependsupon the public that you are engaging with.
How to change public perceptions?
Public criminology (?) (Loader & Sparks, 2010)Improving public understanding:Increase public educationImprove research with the publicIncrease dialogue between professionals and the public(Green, 2006)
Do we need to change current discourses?
In the main most discourses surrounding sexual violence tend to be located in the victim-offender paradigm discussing thepersonal impactthat theoffence has.This givesthe impression of isolated instances of sexual violence rather than a more systematic, embedded culture present in society.By stating that the victim and the offender are somehow unique it means that some sections of the public can disengage form theconversation.What can be done to educate and reformulate societal understandings ofPaedophilia/CSAacross a range of publics?
Public health, prevention and engagement
Public Health is the means of improving the health of individuals, communities and society through a variety ofmeans, focusing on;Changepeople’s attitudes and beliefs towards an issue;Increase physical and interpersonal skills;Influence social norms;Change structural factors;andInfluence the availability of and access to services.
Primary (prevention)
Byallowing parents, children and 3rdparties to recognise the signs ofabuseThat systemsalready exist to address these concerns through improved formal/informal education.Stop it now!
Secondary (responding to warnings)
Thatpaedophiles and/or (potential) child sexual offenders know that they can receive help to change their deviant cognitions and prevent their offending.Dunkelfeld
Tertiary (reintegration/releapseprevention)
throughbroader in engagement with child sexual abuse reintegration;bydemonstrating what is done with child sexual offenders post release by the state, charities and the public.MnCOSAATSAState & criminal justice responses
Public health, prevention and engagement
Publichealth campaigns, and therefore by default prevention messages, only gets throughwhen thepublic thinks that it relates directly tothem.Most CSA campaigns/messagesfocus on the negative impact of the abuse on one individual in a givensituation by an individual offender.People may disengage from themessage because;theymay struggle to engage with the story beingtold;theyare oversaturated with similarstories;ortheyfeel powerless/unwilling to help.Ifthe message was more about process, structure and function then this might change the outcome, like with other crime related public healthcampaignsReduction of A&E admittance in Cardiff city centre
Public health & Child Sexual Abuse/Paedophilia?
Sexual violence public health discourses in the main areprimary preventionbased focusing on education, engagement and awareness raising.However, this message does not always get effectively conveyed by the state and/or professionals to the public, especially in terms of what happens at secondary and tertiary levels, and when it does the public do not always process it appropriately.
Public health &Paedophilia/CSA
The causes of paedophilia are individual in nature.Not all paedophiles offend and those that do offend(CSA)do not do so in the same way.Although, the majority ofCSA/Paedophilescan receive treatment for their deviant sexuality not all will succeed in treatment, butthe majority willreturn to society at some point.Consequentially as members of the public here is some advicetowards child protection and risk management (primary);that you can give individuals that you think maybe in this situation (secondary); andaboutwhat the state, and other organisations, doesCSA/Paedophilesso that you can have a better understanding of how these populations are managed (tertiary).
Societal understandings and discourses are fragmented.This fragmentation means that a realistic, coherent message is difficult to get across – however, we know this is the type of message that works between.Public understanding and engagement on issues relating to Paedophilia/Child Sexual Abuse is important.We need more coherent, informed societal debated and educationApublic health approach.But need media, policy, professional “buy in” and consistency.





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The reality of community understandings of sexual violence ...