Children As ' Risk': Sexual Exploitation And Abuse By Children And Young People
Project Completion Date:
Prof Anne-Marie McAlinden
Some of the most recent and contentious debates in the area of sexual offences against children have centred on behaviours such as ‘sexting’ and ‘cyberbullying’ involving, for example, social media and on-line methods. These phenomena demonstrate the existence of ‘peer-to-peer grooming’ and abusive behaviours by and among as well as of young people.
Previous empirical research conducted by the principal investigator as part of a broader focus on ‘grooming’ has also identified this as an area of a major concern and one in need of further detailed exploration. The proposed project aimed to confront some of these complexities and tensions surrounding conceptualisations and responses to ‘risk’ concerning children and harmful sexual behaviour in both on-line and off-line contexts and the related legal, policy and cultural challenges this presents.
The overall purpose of this project was to critically examine popular and state-led constructions of ‘risk’ concerning sexual exploitation and abuse concerning children. Social and cultural ambiguities surrounding what amounts to sexualised forms of risk to children - including the dividing line between coercion and consent - also have implications for the formulation of policy responses including the criminalisation of such behaviour.
The project involve over 30 in-depth semi-structured interviews with practitioners (including judges, lawyers, police officers, social workers, clinical and forensic psychologists, safeguarding and medical professionals, intervention and 'treatment' professionals) who work with children and young people displaying or affected by harmful sexual behaviour.
NOTA - National Organisation for the Treatment of Abusers
The empirical research was used to inform a fully theorised monograph published by Cambridge University Press: Children as ‘Risk’ – Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by Children and Young People. By A.-M. McAlinden (Cambridge Studies in Law and Society, Cambridge University Press, 2018). Available at: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/children-as-risk/43C59B8F7127F34329DD5F2815802FD8
See also a QPOL blog written by the author summarising some of the core arguments in the book: http://qpol.qub.ac.uk/sexual-exploitation-abuse-children-young-people-normal-risky-harmful/