During the past decade, effective victim advocacy, changes in public policy, and a growing spotlight on horrific cases have focused the public’s attention on campus sexual misconduct. Research confirms the need for increased attention in this area, as college-aged women experience the highest rates of sexual violence of any group. According to a 2020 study by the American Association of Universities, 26% of female and 7% of male undergraduate students experience nonconsensual sexual contact during their four years on campus.
ATSA is defining it’s voice in the response to campus sexual misconduct, first drafting a public policy statement, which outlines what is known about the perpetration of sexual misconduct and identifies the potential for ATSA’s critical contributions to the campus world. ATSA then submitted comments regarding the proposed US Department of Education Title IX regulatory changes. The most recent changes opened to door for ATSA members by requiring equitable services for the students who have been harmed and the students who have been accused or found responsible for sexual misconduct. Even with this opening, there continue to be concerns and questions about how this current policy handles those who engage in sexual misconduct.
Campuses have begun to seek out expert guidance about effective interventions for the students who have been accused or found responsible for sexual misconduct. This is where ATSA members have a unique voice and expertise to offer. By offering access to the research and practice knowledge about individuals who have sexually harmed, colleges and universities will be able to make more informed decisions about those students who are in the system. With this information, campuses will also be able to move one step closer to achieving the important goal of preventing sexual misconduct.
We also recognize that the campus world is very different from the current criminal justice environment that most ATSA members work within. Through surveys conducted by ATSA’s prevention committee, we learned that many ATSA members have interest in this work, but need more information, background about changing regulations, and insights into working with a broader range of behaviors as well as non-adjudicated students.
To address these identified areas, a working group of the Prevention and Public Policy Committees created a new listserv to share resources, research, and case consultation advice for ATSA members beginning to work within the campus setting.
Beginning in June 2022, ATSA will be hosting four free webinars, bringing in both outside experts as well as ATSA members with this unique expertise to cover two key areas:
I. What do ATSA members need to know about the campus world?
II. How can ATSA members apply and modify their unique knowledge and expertise to the diverse needs of the campus world?
We are pleased to announce our first webinar on June 1, 2022 at 3pm EST (12p PST). This webinar features Rachel King, PhD, an expert in restorative justice practices and former Title IX coordinator at Curry College. Rachel will provide an overview of the campus environment, Title IX process, and restorative justice.
1. Campus 101: Overview of the Campus Process and Everything you needed to know about how the campus world will respond with Rachel King, PhD of RKResolutions (June 1, 2022)
Last week something out of the ordinary, well for recent
years, and very familiar happened in Leeds at the Queens Hotel: the annual NOTA
Conference!! The conference took place from the 4th– 6th of May with 230+ people in attendance. This blog will give you an overview, and a flavour of the conference.
NOTA debated long and hard about whether to have an in-person conference, we thought about doing the conference online again or moving to a hybrid model. In the end, we decided on doing it in person as it felt that this was the direction of travel for a lot of conferences and training coming out of the pandemic and, after talking with members and presenters, something that attendees would value and benefit from, given the increased opportunity for networking and conversation. The conference was originally going to be at the Queens Hotel Leeds in the autumn of 2020 but got moved online, and after some successful negotiating by the NOTA general manager, we were able to move it forward to 2022. Some of the eagle-eyed among you will notice that the conference has moved from September to May, this is something that the NOTA board has been discussing for a while (thanks NOTA Scotland for agreeing to move your annual conference too late August) and so, post-pandemic, it seemed like a good opportunity to try it out. Which, I feel as both conference chair, presenter, and attendee, has worked out well.
Planning an in-person conference in the shadow of COVID, which
is still present in the UK, was a challenge as we did not know who would attend
and if people, including presenters and attendees, would have to cancel at the
last minute; some did but not many!! The choices of keynotes, we decided, would
be focused on people from the UK and Ireland to limit the potential
complications and fallouts from international travel.
The conference kicked off with Sarah Brown, Chair of NOTA, welcoming everyone back and stating that it was great to be back in person at a live conference. The first keynote was Simon Hackett who kicked us off with a recognition of COVID and its impact, from a personal and professional perspective, before going on to discuss how the field of working with Harmful Sexual Behaviour in youths has changed over the years and if we need to redevelop concepts and practice. This was followed by Jessica Woodhams talking about the impact of working with other people’s trauma, especially for case investigators, and how we need to train and support staff better with compassionate leadership. This was followed by two sets of workshop sessions, each with 8 parallel streams, that included everything from emerging research on paraphilias, to harmful sexual behaviour, to the treatment of those convicted of a sexual offence, and the reality of online harms as well as ways to safeguard against them. During the reception on Wednesday, we had a first for NOTA, a posters presentation session, we had 10 Ph.D. and postgrad posters on display; it was a great success, a particular thanks to Dulcie for all her help with this, and will be something that we are looking to replicate again next year.
The Thursday keynotes started with Stuart Allardyce and Peter Yates discussing the emerging field of Sibling Sexual Abuse, or Behaviour as they referred to it, which dovetailed nicely with Simon’s keynote the day before. In discussing Sibling Sexual Abuse, they stated that, although it was not a new concept, professionals had to better equip themselves to understand and respond to it more effectively, especially to help identify as well as respond to it. This was followed by Russell Knight and Claire Barker, from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse talking about the progress of the Inquiry with a special focus on the truth project and how they listened to as well as integrated the victim’s voice into the process in a trauma-informed way. Interestingly, trauma-informed practice became a central theme of the conference, although it was not intended to be, which shows the salience of the issue. After the AGM we had two sets of workshop sessions, each with 8 parallel streams, which covered several topics including Sibling Sexual Abuse, partners of men arrested for IIOC, as well as presentations by Stop it now, Lucy Faithful, and Barnardo’s. Thursday night was the conference networking event, which was for many the highlight of the three days as it gives us the opportunity to catch up and meet new colleagues.
The final day of the conference started with Tamara Turner-Moore and Mitch Waterman discussing ideas around sexual deviance and the DSM-V, which was interesting as they challenged many of the main foundations of the DSM assumptions through their data. They argued that many of the DSM definitions, and understandings, are premised on myths that are not appropriate or that do not hold up to the continually developing evidence base. The final keynote of the conference was a roundtable led by me on the new Council of Europe recommendations on the assessment, treatment, and management of people accused or convicted of a sexual offence. I provided an overview, and context, of the recommendations before Mark Farmer, Jon Brown, and Sarah Brown reflected on the impact of these on policy, practice, and research respectively; with the feeling being that these recommendations were a positive thing and that the UK was already quite compliant with them with the prospect of interesting adaptations being opened up.
The NOTA 22 conference was a great success, with attendees leaving feeling refreshed and upskilled. The highlight of the conference for me, as well as many others, was the opportunity to be in a room with each other discussing research and practice in the field of sexual abuse. The opportunity to talk and network, was significant as the research and practice knowledge grained. The NOTA 2022 conference, which was the 30th Anniversary conference, would not have been possible without the organisation and support provided by the conference team, especially Malcolm and Andi as well as their colleagues behind the scenes.
We hope to see you at NOTA 2023 which will be from the 3rd
– 5th of May in Cardiff with the call for papers going out over the
Blogger’s note: Kasia has been in
Poland these last weeks, involved in efforts to assist those affected by the
war in Ukraine. Her account is presented as the perspective of a colleague
working to help others and keenly aware of the role that sexual violence can
play in times of war.
Thursday, 24 February, 2022. People
from various Ukrainian cities woke up to the piercing roar of the air alert, a
sound they hoped they would never have to hear, a sound that made them realize
immediately that their lives would never be the same again, a sound that
confirmed their biggest fears: President Putin had started the invasion of
Ukraine after months of troop deployment at the border, of playing a smoke and
mirrors game and of creating diplomatic tension.
Thursday, 31 March, 2022. Just over
a month later, at least 1,179 civilian casualties have been reported, at least
1,860 civilians have been wounded, an estimated 6,5 million people are thought
to be displaced inside the war-torn country, more than 3,9 million Ukrainians
have fled their country. The cost of damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure has
reached almost an estimated $63 billion. And let us assume that all these
figures are serious underestimates.
What is not included in these
numbers, however, are the numbers who fall victim to other brutal acts of
violence that are always there, but certainly seem to proliferate during
wartime, such as (sexual) exploitation, sex trafficking, and rape.
I could bombard you with figures,
but I am not going to do that here. I want to bring you the stories of refugees
we have met. Since 11 March, I have been working with a group of volunteers who
drive to the Ukrainian border every weekend, on the one hand to deliver basic
necessities to local partners and on the other hand to give a safe lift to
refugees who want to come to Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium. Since the
war, several volunteer groups have started similar initiatives. Although the
refugees are allowed to travel through Europe free of charge, such a train
journey is anything but a matter of course for many of them. These are mothers
with (very young) children who, after days of travelling through war zones of
trying to dodge bullets and bombs, arrive exhausted and starved in Poland or
elsewhere. They hardly have the energy to continue organizing the journey.
These are elderly people who have difficulty walking and who have used up all
their strength to cross the border. We are talking about people with mental
and/or physical disabilities who need a lot of support in their daily lives and
certainly also to get in and out of a vehicle. So, you can imagine that
travelling in a van or a car makes their lives a little easier, even if it is
for a few hours.
But unfortunately, we do not do this
just to offer them comfort. We are also doing this to offer these people a safe
passage, in order to protect them from (sexual) exploitation, human
trafficking, and other horrors. Many refugees are therefore very fearful and
suspicious of any help that is offered, fear of accepting help from someone
with bad intentions. This fear can be read in their eyes. It has already
happened that the refugees we took along were constantly taking pictures of us,
our cars, and our journey, and immediately sent them to the home front, so that
there would be some evidence, some clue to the possible culprit(s) if it came
to that. It is only after a few hours that they dare to nod off, dare to relax
a little, dare to let their guard down, dare to trust us, albeit a little bit.
This fear is unfortunately
well-founded. A few weeks after the invasion, Facebook groups were organized in
which people could indicate whether they had a place free in their homes for
refugees. This initiative had not yet got off to a good start, when various men
offered a place in their house, but they did set some requirements: the woman
had to be young, preferably with long hair and long legs, who could also clean
and preferably did not yet have a child. These men were ‘unmasked’, as it were,
but many did not bother to post an announcement on a Facebook group and drove
straight to the border to find a woman and take her to Belgium or elsewhere.
This is certainly possible: rows of cars are waiting for the many refugees at
the border, at every train station, …, it is chaos everywhere, despite the
efforts of various volunteers. Unfortunately, we can be sure that several women
have fallen from one trauma, namely the war, into another terrible traumatic
situation. Also, at the train station in Krakau, Poland, we saw several men
walking around with signs offering a ride to the refugees. But for the
refugees, it is almost impossible to distinguish between those with bad
intentions and those with good intentions. All they can do is trust their own
intuition, which will sometimes be right, but sometimes not.
Many refugees are a bird for the
cat. After all, not everyone will be suspicious and will accept every kind of
help they receive, out of desperation, out of necessity. Not all women fully
realize the dangers, not to mention the thousands of children wandering
unaccompanied in Ukraine itself or in a foreign country. Various bodies, such
as the Council of Europe and the UN Refugee Agency, mention these dangers, but
the reality is that it is almost impossible to prevent such criminal practices
in this chaos. People with bad intentions have more or less free rein. Another
horror we are now confronted with is rape. In the last week, more and more
stories have reached us of people who have been raped (repeatedly) by (presumably)
Russian soldiers, often in front of their children. These men are also given
free rein. Moreover, overheard telephone conversations between Russian soldiers
and their home front show that these soldiers are quite open about these rapes
and that the home front hardly reacts, let alone ostentatiously disapproves. Hearing
these tapes and testimonies simply turns your stomach, again and again.
And I realize that these atrocities
that we face as volunteers are just the tip of the iceberg. That much remains
unspoken, much remains hidden. As a volunteer, you feel powerless so often, and
for so many reasons.
We can only do this with the help of
sponsorship money, which is not coming in very easily. Even renting a car or a
van turns out to be a big challenge every week. Consequently, our places are
scarce. The first weekend we helped 13 people, then 24, then 12. Every time I
return, it feels as if we have hardly been able to help anyone. Every time, I
struggle with the feeling that we still have so many to help, that what we do
means nothing. In my now regular nightmares, I see all those faces of those we
could not take with us. But then you suddenly get a whatsapp-message, from a
female engineer who came with us to Belgium with her 84-year old mother who was
moaning of pain all the way and both were completely starving but were too
proud to accept any food from us, from a young mother who now has to take care
of her 1-year old curly head and her 5-year old daughter who behaved like an
adult during the car ride, from a 38-year old woman who now lives safely in a
nursing home with her disabled 36-year old brother and 46-year old sister, her
own 10-year old daughter and her guinea pig and her 72-year old mother with
hardly any luggage. And then you realize for a small moment that you have
helped these few people, that these few people can no longer be shot, raped or
exploited by soldiers and exploiters, that these few people can still have hope
this guest blog Dr Peter Yates reflects on the journey to
bring this form of harm to light.
Sibling sexual abuse is a term used to describe ‘harmful
sexual behaviour with a victimising intent or outcome between children who
self-identify as siblings’. Until recently it has remained a largely hidden
phenomenon, under-researched and rarely discussed. This is despite its
prevalence. Data are limited, but it is estimated from a range of studies that
perhaps around 5% of children may be involved in sibling sexual abuse (Yates & Allardyce, 2021). Even the more conservative
estimates of 2% would suggest that in the UK, a country with a population of
just over 67 million people, around 1.3m people would be directly affected.
This is not to mention children’s parents, other siblings, grandparents and
wider family members. Sibling sexual abuse is thought to be up to three times
as common as sexual abuse by a parent (Krienert & Walsh, 2011; Stroebel et al., 2013),
and the impact may be just as severe. The possible short and long-term
consequences of sibling sexual abuse include post-traumatic stress disorder,
depression, substance misuse, eating disorders and relationship difficulties
throughout life (Yates, 2017).
Given these figures and this level of impact it is hard to fathom how it has
remained under the radar for so long.
Perhaps we can look to history. In the ‘Psychopathia
Sexualis’, Krafft-Ebing (1914) provided two examples from the late nineteenth
century of sexual behaviours between a brother and a sister, presented as
isolated cases of individual psychopathy. Since then only a small handful of
studies were published from the 1940s onwards regarding children’s harmful
sexual behaviour towards other children, in which brothers and sisters were
occasionally mentioned (e.g. MacLay, 1960). It wasn’t until the 1980s that more started to
be written on the subject (e.g. Bank & Kahn, 1982; Finkelhor, 1980; Smith & Israel, 1987).
argues that the ground for discussing sexual behaviours between siblings was
prepared in the 1960s by publication of the Battered Child Syndrome (Kempe et al., 1962). This brought to public attention the idea that
parents may not only be strict or even cruel to their children, but may
actually abuse them. The language of ‘child abuse’ that then followed allowed
for the taboo subject of parent-child ‘incest’ to be discussed, therefore paving
the way for sibling incest, which Hacking (1991: 277) considered at the time to
be ‘the next hinterland’.
But this journey has not been smooth. Understanding that
parents may physically abuse their children, and then that parents may sexually
abuse their children, has not stopped the international media from persisting
in portraying child sexual abuse as a problem of ‘stranger danger’ (Weatherred, 2015) – a problem of particularly heinous individuals
who are so very different from ourselves. It remains hard for us to accept that
the majority of sexual abuse is actually most often carried out by people known
to the child, by family members, by uncles, fathers and mothers – and, of
course, by brothers and sisters.
Sexual behaviour, and especially abusive sexual behaviour,
is still regarded as adult behaviour. This is not behaviour we associate with
children (Gittins, 1998; Jenks, 2005). If child sexual abuse by
another child does come to the media’s attention it is most often in the mould
of ‘stranger danger’ – mini-adult sex offenders, dangerous monster children. Children
being sexually abused not by adult strangers, but by adult family members, is a
stretch. Children being sexually abused not by adults at all, but by other children,
is more of a stretch. The idea of a child being sexually abused not just by
another child, but by their brother or sister, is for most people just a step
too far beyond our collective conception of what child sexual abuse is.
And yet it happens, and it is widespread. And over recent years there seems to be a growing willingness to countenance the idea. Over the last ten years or so there has been a small but steady stream of publications on the subject. In 2018 the Scottish Government commissioned a report on intra-familial sexual abuse as part of their Expert Working Group on preventing harmful sexual behaviour by children and young people, culminating in sibling sexual abuse being named for the first time in the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland (2021) along with specific guidance on the subject and reference to further resources. In 2020 the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse commissioned a Sibling Sexual Abuse Knowledge and Practice Overview, published in 2021, and the Home Office together with the Ministry of Justice have also funded the National Project on Sibling Sexual Abuse, the largest UK study to date on sibling sexual abuse carried out by Rape Crisis England & Wales along with the Universities of Birmingham and the West of England, Bristol. This ended with the first UK conference on sibling sexual abuse, attended by over 600 delegates.
Fleur Strong, National Project Manager for the National Project on Sibling Sexual Abuse, has tirelessly pursued the need for due recognition of sibling sexual abuse as a distinct form of child sexual abuse. Wera Hobhouse MP, alive to these issues as the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Childhood Trauma, has worked in partnership with Fleur to call for a debate in Westminster specifically on the subject of sibling sexual abuse. In the last 220 years there have been only 12 Parliamentary references to sibling sexual abuse, and none at all since November 2000. This is despite 2,451 references to ‘child sexual abuse’ more generally between 2000 to 2021. To hold a debate specifically on the subject of sibling sexual abuse would therefore be a momentous achievement, but this debate was indeed held on March 22nd 2022, in which Wera Hobhouse MP set out a very clear case, calling on the Government first of all to name sibling sexual abuse when it updates its 2021 Child Sexual Abuse Strategy, and secondly to speak to the Departments for Education and for Health and Social Care, asking them to update their safeguarding and commissioning approaches to respond specifically to sibling sexual abuse. You can watch this debate here:
Whilst Rachel Mclean
MP, the responsible Minister, did not commit to the requests made, she did
agree to work further with Wera Hobhouse MP to continue to improve the ways in
which sexual abuse involving siblings is tackled. This is a huge achievement
for Fleur Strong and others who have worked on the National Project on Sibling
Perhaps we have now finally reached the hinterland. Perhaps
we are now beginning to see some chinks in the wall of silence surrounding
sibling sexual abuse. We need to keep chipping away, and perhaps some further
cracks will emerge through which we can find ways better to support the children
and families affected by this most complex and challenging form of harm.
Bank, S. P., &
Kahn, M. D. (1982). The sibling bond.
Jenks, C. (2005). Childhood: 2nd edition. Routledge.
Kempe, C. H.,
Silverman, F. N., Steele, B. F., Droegemueller, W., & Silver, H. K. (1962).
The battered-child syndrome. journal of
the American medical association, 181,
v. (1914). Psychopathia sexualis.
Krienert, J. L.,
& Walsh, J. A. (2011). Sibling sexual abuse: An empirical analysis of
offender, victim, and event characteristics in national incident-based
reporting system (NIBRS) data, 2000-2007. Journal
of child sexual abuse, 20,
MacLay, D. T.
(1960). Boys who commit sexual misdemeanours. British Medical Journal, 5167,
Stroebel, S. S.,
O’Keefe, S. L., Beard, K. W., Kuo, S.-Y., Swindell, S., & Stroupe, W.
(2013). Brother–sister incest: Data from anonymous computer-assisted self
interviews. Journal of child sexual abuse, 22(3), 255-276. https://doi.org/10.1080/10538712.2013.743952
International Women’s Day on Tuesday the 8th of
March 2022 focused on “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”.
The field of sexual abuse is often, and rightly, seen as a women’s issue as it tends
to impact women more than men. However, this is a bit of a red herring as it’s
really a community issue, usually committed by men against women and often
underplayed, ignored, or even validated by some communities and groups. This is
not to dismiss it as a women’s issue, but rather to expand the discussion and recognize
it’s a social issue that we all need to respond to and work towards preventing,
regardless of our gender. We all need to part of the conversation, because
preventing violence against women and girls needs the engagement of men and
Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) is
a coalition of more than 120 specialist women’s support services, researchers,
activists, victims and survivors, and NGOs working to end violence against
women and girls in all its forms. As part of International Women’s Day, EVAW
produced a snapshot
report documenting the extent of violence against women and girls in England
and Wales. The report is a useful tool in highlighting the extent and
nature of abuse currently, existing best practices, and the changes needed to
respond to it. While the report covers a
range of violence against women and girls
(femicide, sexual abuse, domestic violence, online sexual abuse,
abuse in public spaces, and others), our focus here is on sexual abuse and
rape. The report indicates that in
England and Wales:
In the 12-month period ending in September 2021
sexual offences recorded by the police were the highest on record, at 170,973
offences, a 12% increase from the same period in 2020. Rape accounted for 37% of these offences
2.9% of reported sexual offences and 1.3% of
recorded rapes resulted in a charge or summons, which has fallen from the
previous 12 months.
41% of rape victims and survivors withdrew their
support for action through the criminal justice process and declined to pursue
The London Victims’ Commissioner’s 2021
London Rape Review also found that among those who allege rape or
sexual assault to police, 65% withdrew support for the case, an increase of 7%
in the last two years, with nearly two-thirds of London rape victims and
survivors who drop their complaint doing so within a month of going to police, and
the proportion of withdrawals tripling in two years.
Latest Office for National Statistics data show
the disproportionality of sexual assault against minoritized and marginalised
women with Black and mixed-race adults more likely to experience sexual assault
than white or Asian adults.
Cases with white victims and survivors are 1.2
times more likely than Black victims and survivors to result in a charge, and
1.8 times more likely than when victims are Asian (6.7% vs. 3.7%).
10 police forces did not bring a single charge
over the rape of a Black victim during the five-year period, despite recording
148 reports between them.
Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC)
investigation into police officers who abuse their position for a sexual
purpose has shown a sharp rise in reported cases in the past three years, with
this form of abuse now comprising the single largest form of police corruption
After the launch of the Everyone’s Invited, 16,000+
testimonials of sexual abuse in schools were shared from girls as young as 11
years old. The testimonials named 10% of all the schools in England. Following
these revelations, Ofsted launched a review that found 9 out of 10 girls had
experienced sexist name calling and 92% of girls had been sent unsolicited explicit
pictures or videos.
2021 Girls’ Attitudes Survey found that 19% of girls aged 11-16 and 33% aged
17-21 said they had been sent unwanted sexual images online in the last year, and
9% of girls aged 13-16 said they felt pressure to share images of themselves
that they’re not comfortable with.
The report highlights that there is still a lot of work needed
to respond and prevent violence against women and girls. At first reading, the
report is disheartening and frustrating, but it paints a realistic picture of
nature of abuse in England and Wales. The report demonstrates that we must do
more, and offers a number of recommendations, some of which are familiar (i.e.,
a multi-year, well-resourced public attitudes campaign to end violence against
women and girls; a strategic investment to end abuse; far-ranging reform to the
criminal justice system’s approach to this abuse; a victims’ bill that responds
to the diversity of victims and survivors’ experiences with greater rights and
entitlements), some of which are ongoing (i.e., ratification of the
Istanbul Convention; An online
safety bill that comprehensively tackles online abuse), and some
of which are innovative (i.e., effective protection and support for migrant
women; support for schools to implement a whole school approach). Because
it enshrines a community based approach, we would like to highlight a human rights
approach to violence against women and girls, as a key, essential argument in
the prevention (and the cornerstone of the Istanbul Convention), as the right
to live without fear of sexual abuse and violence is a vital human right for
all women and girls in England Wales, as well as globally.
The prevention of violence against women and girls is
everyone’s responsibility. While the London
Victims’ Commissioner’s report focused on England and Wales, the reality is
that these are issues everywhere. While different countries may have different abuse
rates, as well as different attitudes, behaviours, and reporting mechanism, it
is safe to say that we all need to improve our responses and prevention activities.
Sexual abuse exists everywhere globally, and it’s time for the global community
to step up with appropriate responses to this women’s health and human rights
By Kieran McCartan, Ph.D. and David S. Prescott, LICSW
Prince Andrew recently settled out of
court in the civil case brought forward by Victoria Giuffre. The accompanying
statement indicated that Andrew would provide support by “fighting against the evils of sex trafficking,
and by supporting its victims.” This resulted in condemnation and concern from sexual abuse charities with the implication that this was a tone deaf and
inappropriate response. This raises questions about how those who abuse can
offer support and give back to victims of sexual abuse or exploitation. This
blog post is not a commentary on whether Prince Andrew is guilty or the
legitimacy of his out-of-court settlement, but rather whether it is possible
for people accused or convicted of a sexual offense to give back, assist
professional practice, or support victims in their ongoing recovery?
The conversation about people accused or
convicted of sexual abuse making reparations is often seen as a controversial
one, with many in the public and some charities/NGO’s believing that punishment
is the only appropriate route. This is a challenge, as a significant amount of
sexual abuse and exploitation cases never get to court much less end in a
prison sentence. This, in turn, begs the question of what comes next for
accountability for their actions and how best to make reparations.
Historically, there have been
conversations about the role of restorative justice (also controversial) as an
alternative or additional approach to traditional criminal justice. Within the
restorative justice framework, recognition, accountability, and restoration are
among the most important components; the person accused or convicted of a
sexual offense offers insights to their behavior and acknowledge the impact
that it has had on the victim. While this is one way that people accused or
convicted of a sexual offense can give back, it is a very individualized one
based on the inclination of the two individuals involved and the benefits of
the intervention being most directly felt by the people involved. Therefore,
how do we broaden the conversation beyond the individual and the interpersonal,
to make it as much about community and society?
Andrew’s suggestion was that he could support
those who have been victimized from a more top-down position with a broader
impact. What does that actually mean? Is that working directly with a charity,
being on a board of directors, setting up a new charity, or providing a funding
pot for victim services or campaigns (all of which he is well able to do given his
wealth and position)? It is interesting that his ideas all seem to have his
name attached to them. There has apparently been no consideration of helping
anonymously or in some other quietly humble way.
Andrew’s response will be watched and commented on, but the reality is that most people accused or convicted of a sexual offense do not have the same reach or resources that he does, so how do they give back? Some clear steps for anyone giving back and supporting people who have been harmed by sexual abuse include:A
Acknowledge: Anyone accused or convicted of a sexual offense who wants to support victims, their families or the wider community has to recognize what they have done and made their piece with it. This is essential because throughout the process of giving back they may need to recognize their behavior, the issues with it, and how they can move on and support people in doing the same.
Accept: It is important to accept that the victim, their support network, related organizations, and the broader community’s, as well as society’s response to the offense that you have been accused or convicted of is out of your control. It is important to go into the process of giving back with an open mind that is not defensive and recognizes that you may be criticized, not accepted, and not forgiven.
Recognize: The most important piece of giving back is to recognize the victim and their wishes, whether they want the people accused or convicted of a sexual offense to give anything back. If the timing and the messaging is not right, then it is important to step back and not force the issue.
Manage: It is important to manage expectations around what the giving back looks like in terms of content, message, timing, and involvement. This needs to be an ongoing process that moves at the pace of the victim and their representatives.
Message: It is important to get the tone of the message and involvement right. Engagement and giving back is not about enabling the person accused or convicted of a sexual offense to feel good about themselves or to feel that they have “done their bit”. Rather is about the victim, or the victim’s organization, what they want and what they need. This can be challenging as the message maybe very different from different perspectives.
Collaborate: In giving back and supporting victims the process needs to move beyond the individuals affected, it needs to be part of a wider prevention and rehabilitation response. This means understanding the socio-political and service landscape so that messaging can be used appropriately. This means that the voice of the person who has been abused needs to be recognized, framed, and progressed accordingly.
Be open to opportunities: The changing narratives around sexual abuse, prevention, and responses, mean that new funding, research, and collaborative opportunities are opening. Some if these may look and feel familiar where others may not. They may feel uncomfortable and challenging. It is important to embrace these opportunities so that people at risk of victimization and perpetration can learn from the experience of the person accused or convicted of a sexual offense. It is important to state that in helping or working with current victims we can help and safeguard against future victimization.
The role of people accused or convicted of
sexual offenses giving back and supporting those who have been victimized is
not an easy one, nor a decision to be made lightly. It needs careful thought
and consideration and must be done in a thoughtful, considerate, and
appropriate fashion. While Prince Andrew’s offer may have failed to ignite a positive
response, this may be a fault of the messaging, more to do with the tone,
nature, and implied ego and intrusiveness of it.
By Kieran McCartan, Ph.D., Kasia Uzieblo, Ph.D., and David S. Prescott, LISCW
The recent Jeffery Epstein legacy
trials, those of Ghislaine Maxwell and the (formerly titled) Prince Andrew,
have highlighted that society still does not trust victims of sexual abuse,
their narratives, or their motivations.
In the Maxwell case, it turned
out that one of the jurors
disclosed that they were a victim of sexual abuse to corroborate the victims’
narratives and indicate that there are legitimate reasons for the complexity
and seeming contradictions. However, this was seen as derailing the legal
processes, mainly by the defence counsel, and the case is on track to appeal.
The agreement is that this juror was a disgruntled victim looking to dispute
the agenda with a personal crusade that looked to make Maxwell the unwarranted
target of their fury.
In the Duke of York case, the
victim-blaming narratives were two-fold. The first was that she was only
looking for money and not justice (disclosing how much the victim received in
an earlier settlement may also have been seen as a way to portray her as a money-grabber).
This has since been countered by the prosecution, who have stated that their
not want to settle out of court. The second victim-blaming narrative is that
the woman was suffering from false
memories and that the allegations are not true. The false memories argument
reinforces a lot of the claims made by Andrew (i.e., that he never met her, he
was elsewhere at the time, that the photo was faked, that he doesn’t sweat,
etc.). The argument highlights that it’s the victim that is untrustworthy, in a
way that suggests that she is confused, unreliable, and vulnerable. The false
memory argument seems to suggest that the victim’s vulnerabilities have
resulted in the duke becoming the target of her ire as he is a public figure,
but not the actual culprit. The core of the duke’s argument is that she is
targeting him because of his personal wealth and that she is out for what she
can get from him. This is reinforced by the fact that she is pursuing a civil
case rather than a criminal case without recognizing that there are very real
and legitimate reasons for why this decision was made. These reasons include
the threshold of evidence needed, the fact that the duke is not an American
citizen and that the case is playing out in an American court, and the
geographic location where the abuse took place. What the duke’s defence has
done is paint a picture of a damaged, angry individual who is seeking money,
These examples continue to damage
public perception of victims, their credibility, and their ability to seek – and
receive – justice. We have seen this play out in the media and social media
message boards with people claiming that “She went along with it!,” “No one
forced her,” “She is getting something out of it,” “Well, the story does not
make sense so it must be untrue,” and “Why has she waited this long to seek
justice.” The result is that in the court of public opinion victims’
stories are undermined over and over again and that people often have good
reasons for not coming forward to disclose abuse. In addition, these perceptions,
victim-blaming tendencies, and cognitive distortions cannot be ruled out among
professionals (police, judges, etc.), which can lead to inadequate treatment of
Therefore, what lessons can we
learn from these cases, from the evidence, that we can use in moving forward?
The help-seeking process is complex, consists of
different phases, is different for everyone, and requires a great deal of
insight, courage, and skills on the part of the victim.
Victims often take a long time to come forward
and disclose their experiences of abuse as it takes time for them to process as
well as understand it.
Sexual abuse is complex with victims often being
groomed and manipulated by the person that is abusing them, quite often to the
point that they don’t see the abuse.
The narratives of those who have been victimized
can be complex and contradictory, which is a product of the abuse and human memory
processes and not a sign of unreliability or manipulation.
Those who have been victimized often want
different forms of “justice” and that can appear different to all. Therefore,
its unrealistic to expect everyone to want the same brand and type of justice.
We need to recognize that false memories can and
do exist (see for an interesting review, see O’Donohue et al., 2018), but it is
in the minority of cases and hence must not be seen as the go-to explanation
for complex victim narratives.
We need to realize, as professionals and
certainly as a (online) community, that responding adequately to disclosures is
essential to the well-being of the victim, will facilitate help-seeking
behaviour in the future of that victim, and will facilitate help-seeking
behaviour of other victims.
As a society we need to start
recognising that the narratives of those who have been victimized are not black
and white, and that this means that we need to understand how to best support
them as well as the Criminal Justice System in processing these cases.
By Kieran McCartan, PhD, David Prescott, LISCW, & Kasia Uzieblo, PhD
Earlier this week two of the authors, Kieran and Kasia, took part in a webinar for the European Forum on restorative Justice as part of Restorative justice week. The purpose of the talk was to discuss the new Council of Europe guidelines on the assessment, management, and integration of people accused or convicted of a sexual offence and its link to restorative justice. The recommendations were developed by a broad group of experts involving Kieran, Marianne Fuglestved, and Harvey Slade as well as members of the PC-CP and external organisations (including, ATSA, NOTA, NL-ATSA, IATSO AND Les Centres Ressources pour les Intervenants auprès des Auteurs de Violences Sexuelles (CRIAVS). The recommendations are based on the importance of delivering effective practices to people who are convicted, or accused, of a sexual offence. This involves the events and processes from arrest and conviction through to their integration back into the community. The recommendations focus on different parts of the process, including risk assessment tools and processes, the role of treatment in prison and probation (especially the importance of a trauma-informed, service user-engaged rehabilitative process), the role of supporting and working with those who have been victimized (especially in respect to restorative justice), engagement with the media when individuals are released and the need for effective, evidence-based staff training and development. The aim of this blog is not to talk through the full remit of the recommendations and their impact – we would suggest that the reader look at the recommendations (see: https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/-/managing-persons-accused-or-convicted-of-a-sexual-offence-council-of-europe-issues-new-guidelines) – but rather to look at one recommendation in particular, the recommendations linked to restorative justice.
The use of restorative justice in the field of sexual abuse, and in the processes of treatment and recovery for those who have been harmed as well as the person that has committed the sexually abusive behaviour has sometimes been controversial. In 2018, the Council of Europe published Recommendations concerning restorative justice in criminal matters and as such were committed to seeing restorative justice as part of the criminal justice process. When developing the recommendations relating to people arrested or convicted of a sexual offense, the PC-CP suggested incorporating rights for those victimized and examining restorative justice. The team went and talked with Dr. Ian Marder, who had played a role in the development of the restorative justice recommendations, and developed a recommendation linked to it. The recommendation was:
Rule 31: Where appropriate, prison services and probation agencies should liaise with other criminal justice agencies as well as with victim support services and other agencies as appropriate, to ensure that the needs of victims are met and in order to avoid continuing victimisation.
Commentary:. Probation, and related services, should work with victim services in an appropriate and professional way to safeguard and protect the rights of victims. This is particularly important in cases where the victim is part of a vulnerable or protected group, or where they have an ongoing relationship, direct or indirect, with the person accused or convicted of the sexual offence. As outlined in Rule 30, this rule aims to support victims’ journeys, rather than enabling victims to influence the sentencing or release of the person convicted of a sexual offence. In terms of restorative justice, the victim can ask for a restorative justice‑based intervention if it is part of the suite of outcomes available to them upon or after sentencing.
The rule, or recommendation, indicates that restorative justice should not be taken off the table in respect to services offered people who have committed sexual abuse and those who have been victimized; rather, it should be used, where appropriate, in a thoughtful manner that considers the needs of those harmed. Kieran, Kasia and Linda Millington (from Why me?) discussed in a recent webinar. The webinar focused on the need to discuss the reality of sexual abuse and what this means for those impacted by it (both those who abuse and those harmed) and that restoration was an important part of the rehabilitative process. The webinar emphasized that restorative justice is not always about forgiveness or confrontation, but rather about an opportunity for discussion and to be heard and acknowledged, which is a central aspect of the healing process. The take-home message was that the victim’s journey is a central part of the criminal justice process and that it can be, but dies not have to be, a central part of the people convicted or accused of a sexual offences journey but it can be if all parties are open to it and respectful of it.
By Kieran Mccartan, Ph.D., Amelia Anning, MSc, and Emma Qureshi, BSc
Recently the authors have been
involved in a research project funded primarily by the Home Office and overseen
by Rape Crisis England & Wales (RCEW)
that examined, in part, the
experiences of adult survivors of sibling sexual abuse (SSA) in childhood.
In the course of time the publication of reports and journal articles from
research will emerge, but over the next few months we will be posting blogs
relating to some of the key questions and challenges that this area of sexual
abuse presents. For if sexual abuse as a topic area is complex and nuanced,
this is particularly true of the area of Sibling Sexual Abuse (Yates
and Allardyce, 2021). This blog will discuss some of the complexities that
we faced in determining the remit of the study and the challenges of defining
what Sibling Sexual Abuse was.
The first main challenge was the
definition of sibling sexual abuse, especially because both core terms, Sibling
and Sexual abuse, are debated with different professional, practitioners, and
policies seeing them in different ways. If we start with the term “sibling”
quite often, and historically, that means a direct blood relative that you live
with (i.e.., a biological brother or sister), but in the modern era with
changes to life and family dynamics this definition is no longer meaningful. We
had started to see the term sibling broaden in its meaning to include adoptive
siblings, foster siblings, and step siblings (either through the blending of
existing families or the emergence of new children through a blend of
families). In addition to this some participants stated that they counted
non-family members as siblings, it certainly closer than existing siblings,
like teammates or roommates at boarding school. This threw up another issue,
that of location, for not all siblings resided in the same house at all, never
mind for part of the week. This presented a challenge as, if we let
participants determine their own definition of sibling then the study would
start to lose meaning. Therefore, for the purpose of the study we defined
siblings as individuals related to each other, through blood or other means,
through a common caregiver that may or may not be a blood relative.
The second main challenge was
understanding and defining what was meant by “sexual abuse”. Sexual abuse is a
wide and varied term, and this has an impact on the way that different forms of
abuse are recognised and responded to. Research shows that sexual abuse is
varied and that experiences of sibling sexual abuse reflect this (Yates and Allardyce, 2021), which was what our research and
scoping work found as well with victims stating that they had experienced penetrative abuse, inappropriate touching, coercive
control, as well as exposure to pornography and viewing as well as creating child
sexual abuse material. However, interestingly the research study suggested
that in a lot of sibling sexual abuse cases there was a broader family sexual,
emotional, and psychological dysfunction in their everyday life. And, that it was not until they were
teenagers, or adults, that they saw the sexually abusive behaviour for what it
was. Unlike the definition of sibling, we thought that the definition of sexual
abuse needed to be as broad as possible to really include the full scope and
range of sexually abusive behaviour and its outcomes; thereby, including penetrative
abuse, inappropriate touching, coercive control, as well as exposure to
pornography and viewing as well as creating child sexual abuse material.
We defined Sibling Sexual Abuse
for the purpose of the study as, “any form of sexualized behaviour or
action, contact and non-contact, between siblings” which led to the third
and final challenge the context of the abuse. In some ways this was
pre-determined for us by the funding stream, which wanted us to look at the experiences
of people who were sexually abuse by a sibling during their childhood. This made
the research design easier, but it created other issues in that often, as
demonstrated by research (Yates
and Allardyce, 2021) and our experience, that while the sexual abuse
started in childhood too often it continued into adulthood and on some
occasions, it starts in adulthood. It’s important to state this as often as sibling
sexual abuse is seen as a form of child abuse, which it is much broader than
that. Which lead to the debate – what was a child and where, if at all, we
should draw the definitional boundary. It was decided that as childhood is an ever
more contested term, that we would look at official terms and legal definitions
of children. Definitions of childhood seem to draw the line at either 16 or 18;
we decided to use 18 as the cut off as it was the most inclusive and it’s the
legal definition laid down by the UN and the most internationally recognised
one. This meant that we were going into our research project with the
definition of Sibling Sexual Abuse being “any form of sexualized behaviour
or action, contact and non-contact, between siblings when they were under the
age of 18”.
Although we thought that this was
the most inclusive definition that we could use, and in the main it was, the
research started to show up other definitional factors that would give us pause
The gender and age of the siblings involved in
the sexual abuse.
The role of external forces in the Sibling
Sexual Abuse, including peers, parents, and other family members.
The role of professionals in recognising,
defining, and responding to Sibling Sexual Abuse and their impact on what was
The victim/survivors’ perceptions of their own
abuse and what was deemed “worthy” to be counted as sexual abuse such as
The overarching family dysfunction linked to the
Sibling Sexual Abuse and context it created whereby sexual abuse was seen as
normal or completely secretive behaviour, which impacted disclosures and help
seeking behaviour. But also, the recognition that the person committing the
Sibling Sexual Abuse may be a victim of sexual, domestic, emotional, or
psychological abuse themselves.
Some of these issues will be
further explored in future blogs, articles, and/or reports but the main thing
to take from this blog is that Sibling Sexual Abuse is complex issue that due
consideration needs to be given to terminology and definitions surrounding it
when planning research, practice, or policy.
By Kieran McCartan, Ph.D., Kasia Uzieblo, Ph.D., & David Prescott, LICSW
Over the last 18 months, many in our field have been homebound, working online. This is something that we have mostly gotten used to, even if we haven’t liked it. As we start to emerge from COVID-19, we look forward to being in a room together having conversations and learning together. While we are not at a place where live, in-person conferences are the norm we are starting the long path back to that place. It is important to note that while online or hybrid conferences are still taking place, and will quite likely remain post-pandemic, there is also the place, where possible, for in-person conferences. But what are the implications for critical conversations, being heard and respected, while also generating new ideas? Do we simply refine our processes or is it about starting over again to create a new dialogue?
This week, Kieran and Kasia were in Madeira at the 26th Annual Conference of the Directors of Prison and Probation. The conference is typically an in-person annual event where the heads of Prison and Probation come together to discuss the major topics of the day. In the past, this has included electronic monitoring, incarnation data, and release programmes. This time, it included people within the criminal justice system with issues related to their mental health, people convicted of sexual offences, the impact of covid on prison and probation, as well as the implications of artificial intelligence for the criminal justice system. The conference had over 80 attendees, including experts, partner organisations (for example, EuroPris, the Confederation of European Probation), Council of Europe members and committee representatives, and the directors of prison and probation from 29 countries (including, Spain, Portugal, UK, Ireland, France, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Moldova, and Belgium). Although the conference was interesting, with topics directly and indirectly to those featured in this blog, we have decided to focus our attention on the session around people convicted of a sexual offence.
The reason for Kieran and Kasia’s attendance at the conference was to talk about and analyse the forthcoming “Recommendations on the assessment, treatment and management of people convicted or accused of sexual offences” by the Council of Europe. The development of these recommendations where lead by Kieran (UK) along with Marianne Fuglestved (Norway) and Harvey Slade (UK). In the coming months, we will write a more detailed blog on the recommendations, which ATSA as well as NOTA, IATSO, and NL-ATSA to name a few, were also involved as critical friends. The role of the recommendations is to create common and good practices across the Council of Europe (CoE) area. The CoE is 46 countries from across the boarder European landscape – it is important to note that the CoE, European Union, and European Commission are all separate organisations with different memberships. So, while the UK left the European Union, it has not left the Council of Europe or the European Commission.
The Council of Europe (CoE) started working on the recommendations in
early 2018. Initial conversations at the PC-CP (the committee for
penological co-operation), the committee handling the development of the
recommendations for the CoE, revolved around what should recommendations focus
on. It was discussed whether the recommendations should address definitions of
sexual abuse, laws surrounding sexual abuse or the system that has developed to
respond to sexual abuse. It was decided to focus on the process that people
convicted or accused of a sexual offence would go through upon arrest,
conviction, imprisonment, and release into the community. The recommendations
would focus on risk assessment, treatment/rehabilitation, community integration,
research, media engagement and data sharing. Previously to the conference the recommendations
had been drafted and redrafted, this was their first public airing ahead of sign
off and approval later in 2021. In their session, which took place twice, the
three speakers touched on all these points.
Kieran McCartan (UK) outlined the recommendations, why they were important and their context. Kieran highlighted that sexual abuse was an international issue, that was as much about communities as individuals and that we needed to look to a more holistic, public health approach. He argued that risk assessment was important as individuals needed the treatment that addressed their needs.
Kasia Uzieblo (Belgium) built on Kieran’s presentation in arguing that while risk assessment is important, especially in terms of treatment, what was more important was that people understood and could communicate the risk assessment tools, and their outcomes, clearly. She argued that judges, as well as other experts who were not trained in risk assessment, did not always understand the results and this had challenges for treatment and management. Even apart from the communication issue, she stated professionals needed to tie their risk management strategies directly to the outcomes of risk assessments. She also argued that it is important to use established risk assessment tools, which not every country in the CoE does, and not simply use any Structured Professional Judgement tool just because it has a better feel to it, which some countries in the CoE do; a topic which was a debated topic in the development of the recommendations. Kasia used examples from the Netherlands and Belgium, who are at different points in their risk assessment and management journey, to highlight her points.
Oscar Herres Mejis (Spain) started by introducing us to some of the new developments, particularly new treatment programmes, in the treatment of people convicted of a sexual offence in Spain. Oscar stated that risk assessments are not commonly done in Spain, which he felt was unfortunate and needed to change as all people convicted of a sexual offence, regardless of risk level, take part in the same 18-month program, which is challenging. He asked the audience to recognise that a balance that needs to occur between the evidence base, which at times in the treatment of people convicted of a sexual offence can be contradictory, and professional judgement and insight. As a practitioner, Oscar talked about how the recommendations are a useful compass in allowing him, and Spain, to orientate their national practice and improve treatment outcomes for their clients while making communities safer.
Throughout the two session,s there was a great deal of audience participation and debate, which included conversations on,
The role and the need for the separation of individuals convicted of a sexual offence within the prison system.
The role of risk assessment in treatment and who should do the assessment (is the professional delivering the treatment and/or someone else?).
The role of denial in the treatment of people
convicted of a sexual offence.
What provision, if any there should be, for
people convicted of a sexual offence of different risk levels.
How we keep the human in treatment and
rehabilitation and not simply make it’s a mechanised outcome.
The conference, and the sessions contained within, were a welcome return to “normal” with people being able to present and discuss freely, something that was rarely possible during online sessions. It was interesting as it was Kieran and Kasia’s first in-person conference since the pandemic started over 18 months and while it took us both a bit of time to find our feet it resulted in productive conversations and insights. So, while online training and conferences have their place, you cannot really take the human interaction out of the process.