Victims Voices: Aligning Sexual Abuse Crime and Punishment
Victim impact statements are an important component of perpetrator sentencing, and feelings towards the perpetrator can impact victims’ treatment outcomes. However, are very few investigations into whether young (i.e., children and adolescents) victims want their perpetrator to be punished and, if so, how. File reviews revealed evidence about young sexual abuse victims’ interests regarding their perpetrator’s punishment.
- Most data was collected on female victims whose male perpetrator was related to them.
- Most victims in the dataset did not express any interest in punishment or repercussions.
- When desired consequences were mentioned, they involved judicial measures and/or physical harm.
- Some participants reported multiple consequences, whereas the majority did not indicate desired consequences.
- Comments included wanting to maintain a relationship with their perpetrator.
- Within a sample of victims who resided with their perpetrator, 6% wanted the perpetrator to leave the family, 12% wanted to maintain contact, and 19% wanted judicial consequences.
Long-Term Mental Health Impacts of Childhood Sexual Abuse: Children Abused by Children
Victim impacts of sexual abuse by another child has rarely been explored. Long-term impacts of childhood sexual abuse was explored between adults who were: 1) never sexually abused, 2) sexually abused by child(ren), adolescent(s), or adult(s). The study focused on abuse/no abuse before 12 years of age. How participants view their childhood sexual abuse as abuse was also explored.
- Of those who met childhood sexual abuse criteria:
- 42% reported sexual abuse by at least 1 child (under 12 years of age)
- 25% reported sexual abuse by child/children only
- Victims reported significantly more mental health challenges than nonvictims.
- Comparing long-term victim impacts among victims of children only, adolescents only, or adults only, mental health functioning did not differ.
- Children’s concerning sexual behaviours seem to have as much impacts as sexual abuse perpetrated by adolescents or adults
- 54% of participants who indicated unwanted sexual contact by a child did not consider it to be “sexual abuse” even though more than half of them also noted the sexual contact included coercion and no consent.
Identifying Victims at Risk for Trauma Symptoms or Sexual Behaviour
Though not all, some young sexual abuse victims later experience trauma and/or engage in concerning sexual behaviours (CSB). We explored whether specific child and abuse characteristics were more common in victims experiencing trauma or engaging in CSB.
- Age of first abuse, abuse duration, perpetrator relationship, and perpetrator age were not related to presence or absence of trauma and CSB.
- Our results do not support other researchers who have found characteristics that seem to explain why some young victims engaging in CSB or experience trauma.
- Therefore, the presence/absence of trauma and CSB may be less tied to victim/victimization characteristics than is the extent of trauma experienced and CSB engaged in.
Perpetrator Characteristics, Victim Anxiety and Depression
Mental health functioning of child and adolescent (youth) sexual abuse victims was investigated using both self- and guardian- reports. Functioning was explored based on perpetrator relationship and gender; self- and guardian- reports were compared.
- Self-reported anxiety and depression symptoms did not differ between youth sexually abused by family (e.g., parent, sibling, other family member) or nonfamily members.
- Guardians reported that their children experienced significantly more symptoms of depression and anxiety when their perpetrator was extrafamilial compared to intrafamilial.
- Compared to guardian reports, youth reported significantly more symptoms of depression and anxiety when their perpetrator was a parent or sibling.
- Youth and their guardians agreed on the level of youth depression and anxiety symptoms when perpetrators were other family members (i.e., not a parent or sibling) or extrafamilial.
Characteristics of Children with Concerning Sexual Behaviours Against Intrafamilial or Extrafamilial Victims
There has been limited investigation into understanding why some children engage in concerning sexual behaviours (CSB) within the family while others engage outside the family. Personal, family, and sexual behaviour characteristics are important for understanding children CSBs; however, it is unknown whether these are also important to understanding whether or not CSBs are against family. Psychometric and file review data was explored.
- The sample of children 95 children at Radius for CSB were grouped into those whose behaviours were with a family member, outside the family, or both.
- Groups were compared based on their age at CSB, number of victims, use of coercion in CSB, impulsivity, and parental relationship.
- Groups did not differ on most variables explored.
- Groups did differ on the number of victims.
Exploring Abuse Characteristics of Transgender Youth
There is a dearth of research exploring sexual abuse of transgender individuals, and studies of this issue tend to focus on victim impact. Additionally, research investigating sexual offenders crimes has not provided insight into sexual abuse of transgender victims. The goal of this study was to attempt to gain insight into who sexually abuses transgender individuals and the characteristics of the sexual abuse perpetrated.
- Data presented in multiple studies was combined; data collected through literature review.
- Very few studies include descriptions of the perpetrator and characteristics of the abuse.
- Intrafamilial sexual abuse less commonly reported than extrafamilial.
- Many studies do not include the gender of the transgender victims perpetrator.
- Compared to men, women reported penetration, oral sex, and fondling.
- Voyeurism was more commonly reported by women than by men.
- Pilot project which has informed an ongoing study using primary data.
Characteristics of Children with Sexual Behaviour Against Animals
Sexual abuse of an animal has been found to be more common among children who repeatedly engage in concerning sexual behaviours after identification. Little is known of the characteristics of children whose inappropriate sexual behaviours include animals. Through a comparison of psychometric data, clinical file notes, and referral documentation (e.g., guardian, police, child-welfare reports) we explored whether CSB children with and without animal contact experience similar or different family environments, aggression, and victimization histories.
- As CSB of an animal is less common, an identified CSB sample was matched with CSB-no animal.
- CSB with and without animal sexual contact formed 2 groups whose characteristics were compared.
- No group differences on measures of aggression or family functioning.
- Further exploration of sexual abuse experiences of the groups is warranted based on the result.
Family Characteristics of Child Victims With and Without Concerning Sexual Behaviour
Understanding causes of children’s concerning sexual behaviours (CSB) is an important goal for sexual abuse prevention. Evidence demonstrates that a causal relationship between child sexual abuse (CSA) and CSB development is too simplistic. Characteristics of the family environment may combine with CSA to explain CSBs. The goal of the study was to explore whether family environment characteristics may be important to understanding why some young CSA victims engage in CSBs and others do not.
- Inclusion criteria included under 12 years of age and victim of sexual abuse; participants were grouped into those who have and have not engaged in CSB.
- Victims in the CSB group scored significantly higher on a measure of general family challenges than victims in the non CSB group.
- Witnessing family violence significantly predicted that a child victim would engage in CSBs.
Potential Gender Differences in Child and Adolescent Victims of Maltreatment
Gender is often included in studies of abuse rates and experiences. For example, researchers have demonstrated gender differences in rates of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse during childhood and adolescence. Though rate-related gender differences have been found, researchers tend to control the influence of gender, or focus on a specific gender, when investigating personal impacts of abuse. Evidence that maltreatment impacts are similar, or differ, among genders will benefit intervention decisions and programming. The purpose of the study was to explore trauma symptoms among genders at varying ages.
- Participants were 8 – 16 years of age.
- Focused on self-reported trauma symptoms.
- Genders reported similar levels of post-maltreatment anger and dissociation.
- Age was found to be important for explaining gender-specific self-reported depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.