Centre for Research on Families and Relationships

 Research Project

Gender and Sexuality

Gender and Sexuality

Seminar series on childhood sexual abuse

CRFR Associate Dr Sarah Nelson presents issues from research and practice, from her new book Tackling Child Sexual Abuse: Radical Approaches*, which offer hope of more effective, imaginative means of protecting children and young people from sexual abuse.
These seminars will be particularly useful for practitioners and policymakers, and they include time for shared discussions of problems and opportunities involved in implementing change.

Seminar 1
Understanding barriers to disclosure of sexual abuse: creating child-centred approaches

9.30am to 1pm, 16 November 2016
City of Edinburgh Methodist Church
Nicolson Square, Edinburgh

Most sexually abused children do not tell, yet our child protection system relies heavily on them to do so. Research with children by McElvaney and colleagues (2012)** identified three key dynamics: active withholding of the secret; the ‘pressure cooker effect’ of conflict between wishing to tell and wishing not to; and the confiding itself. This means, they argued, that in supporting children to tell, the need for the secret to be contained and controlled must be respected.

Sarah Nelson describes some models which assist silenced children and young people to disclose abuse, including the ‘Stop to Listen’ scheme being piloted in Scotland from 2016. This offers increased (though not total) confidentiality, giving sexually abused children more control over the timing of investigation, and more support during it. Examples are also given of proactive, perpetrator-focused evidence-gathering which reduce the need to rely on children’s own testimony. These include examples of effective practice from the past, which were closed down.

Seminar 2
Community prevention of childhood sexual abuse: a model for practice

9.30am to 1pm, 7 December 2016
City of Edinburgh Methodist Church
Nicolson Square, Edinburgh

One key means of reducing childhood sexual abuse will be the creation of genuinely informed, aware, protective families and communities. Sarah Nelson considers why whole-community prevention has remained, and still remains, a low priority in reactive, case-by-case child protection. She outlines a detailed schema for neighbourhood mapping for children’s safety from sexual crime. Building upon original projects from Edinburgh and Coventry and based on collaborative work with Professor Norma Baldwin, this schema demonstrates how young people and parents in any type of urban, rural, wealthy or disadvantaged neighbourhood can actively contribute to community mapping of risk and support points, strengths, needs and unique features. They can design community safety plans against sexual crime, in genuine partnership with both statutory and voluntary agencies.

*Nelson, S. (2016) Tackling Child Sexual Abuse: Radical approaches to prevention, protection and support, Bristol: Policy Press.

**McElvaney, R., Greene, S. and Hogan, D. (2012) ‘Containing the secret of child sexual abuse’, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 27(6): 1155–75.