“I knew it was wrong but I couldn’t stop it”: young people talk about the prevention of sexually abusive behaviour
AffiliationMelbourne School of Health Sciences Collected Works
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2016 Dr. Gemma McKibbin
Child sexual abuse perpetrated by adults in family and institutional contexts is a well-known phenomenon. Child sexual abuse carried out by other children and young people, however, is a comparatively underexplored social problem. Sexually abusive behaviour by children and young people accounts for about half of all child sexual abuse perpetrated. This thesis is about preventing sexually abusive behaviour carried out by children and young people. The aim of the study reported in this thesis was to gather the insights about prevention of young people who had themselves been sexually abusive. That is, working within a critical feminist framework, the researcher asked young people who had abused what could have been different in their lives so that the sexually abusive behaviour did not occur. Interviews were informed by a Critical Interpretive Synthesis, a qualitative systematic review of broad literature regarding sexually abusive behaviour. The insights of the young people were then used to inform suggestions about strengthening the current sexually abusive behaviour prevention agenda. The study involved semi-structured interviews with 14 young people who had completed the Sexual Abuse Counselling and Prevention Program at the Children’s Protection Society in Victoria. The study also involved gathering the reflections of six treatment-providing workers about the insights of the young people. The young people were approached as experts about their experience of being sexually abusive and invited to act as consultants to the research. At the same time, the past abusive behaviour of the young people was not condoned or minimised. Constructivist Grounded Theory was used to guide the analysis of the qualitative data. Five major thematic categories emerged from the interviews with the young people, including: wrestling with gender and sexual attraction; learning about sexuality; having safe relationships; being responded to by others; and conceptualising thoughts and feelings. A further process of data analysis involved comparing and contrasting the insights of the young people with the reflections of the workers, and with the evidence base. This process revealed three main opportunities for preventing sexually abusive behaviour. That is, young people invited action to: make their relationships safe; reform their sexuality education; and help their management of pornography. The opportunities for prevention identified though the data analysis could inform the development of public-health-type initiatives on primary, secondary, and tertiary levels, which could be implemented in local, national, and international contexts. An enhanced prevention agenda would help to protect the right of all children and young people to live free from child sexual abuse.
Keywordsprevention; child sexual abuse; qualitative methods; sexually abusive behaviour; children and young people
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