Situational prevention of youth sexual violence and abuse
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Situational Prevention of Youth Sexual Violence and Abuse. Richard Wortley Griffith University Brisbane Australia . Why focus on situations?. All behaviour is a result of person and situation The potential to commit crime is widely distributed in the community

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Situational Prevention of Youth Sexual Violence and Abuse

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Situational Prevention of Youth Sexual Violence and Abuse

Richard Wortley

Griffith University

Brisbane

Australia


Why focus on situations?

  • All behaviour is a result of person and situation

  • The potential to commit crime is widely distributed in the community

  • A great deal of crime is opportunistic

  • Even planned crime is governed by situational factors

  • Crime is not a random event but is patterned by criminogenic environments

  • It is often easier to predict where and whencrime will occur than who will offend

  • Difficult to change offenders but easy to change situations


What is situational crime prevention?

  • Public health model - primary/secondary prevention

  • Focus on the crime event

    • Proximal versus distal causes

    • Search for crime hotspots

    • Micro-focus – specific crimes in specific locations

    • Creating safe environments rather than safe individuals

  • Two kinds of interventions:

    • Reducing ‘precipitators’

    • Reducing opportunities


What has this got to do with youth sexual violence and abuse?

  • Traditional person-centred approach

    • View of offenders as suffering psychopathology

      • Internally driven

      • Early onset

      • Persistent

      • Specialised

      • Psychiatric rather than criminal

    • Identifying and screening risky individuals

    • Treating known offenders

  • Smallbone & Wortley (2000)

    • Low incidence of stranger abuse

    • Low levels of entrenched paedophilia

    • Late onset of sexual offending

    • Low persistence of sexual offending

    • High levels of offending versatility


Low incidence of stranger abuse

  • The myth of ‘stranger danger’

    • 56.5% lived with child

    • 36.9% knew child

    • 6.5% stranger

  • Location

    • 69% at home

    • 7% public locations (e.g. public toilets, parks)

  • Offenders abuse victims who can be conveniently accessed as part of their routine activities


Low levels of entrenched paedophilia

  • Low levels of paedophile networking:

    • 8% talked to other offenders before prison

    • 4% member of paedophile group

  • Low levels of other sexual disorder

    • 5.4% exhibitionism

    • 9% frotteurism

    • 5% voyeurism

    • 4.2% public masturbation

    • 1.2% sexual masochism

  • Low pornography use

    • 10% use child pornography – 1.2% on Internet

  • Offenders do not need to be sexually disordered in order to abuse children


Late onset of sexual offending

  • Mean age of first contact 32.4 years

  • Modal age 31-40 years (37% of sample)

  • 10.6% 17-20 years

  • 6% > 50 years

  • Most juvenile offenders do not progress to adult sexual offending

  • However, early onset is associated with higher recidivism

  • Late onset a function of increased opportunities


Low persistence of sexual offending

  • Number of convictions

    • 77% first sex offence

  • Number of victims

    • 55% one victim

    • 3%>10 victims

  • Recidivism

    • Preliminary results <10%

    • Consistent with Hanson & Bussiere’s (1998) meta-analysis - 13% sex offence after 5 years release

  • Offenders deterred by consequences and reduced opportunity


High levels of offending versatility

  • Prior convictions

    • 57% non-sex offences (all major categories); 23% sex offences

    • Four time more likely first offence was non-sexual (82% versus 18%)

    • 5% serial specialists

  • Reconvictions

    • Sex offenders 3 times more likely to be reconvicted for non-sex offence (Hanson and Bussiere found 37% non-sexual recidivism)

  • Many child sex offenders have generalised impulse-control problems


Explaining youth sexual violence and abuse from a situational perspective

  • Potential to commit sexual violence and abuse more widespread than sexual deviancy model suggests

  • Evolutionary predisposition for youthful partners, sexual aggression, and self-interest

  • Failure to learn not to offend

  • Breakdown of personal, social & situational controls – children victimised because they are vulnerable

  • Sexual preference for children may be a consequence of offending – offending changes offenders

  • Importance of onset offence – primary prevention


Three types of offenders:

  • Committed

    • 23% serial sex offenders

    • Sexual preference for children

    • Manipulate environment to create opportunities

  • Opportunistic

    • 41% first time sex offenders/versatile criminal history

    • Sexually ambivalent/generalised poor self-control

    • Exploit opportunities

  • Reactive

    • 36% first time for any offence

    • No strong attraction to children/conventional

    • Respond to situational stressors and/or stimulation


Settings for sexual violence and abuse:

  • Public

    • Parks, public toilets, swimming pools etc

    • Prevention: Easy to intervene but low base rates

  • Institutional

    • Residential (orphanages, boarding schools, detention centres etc) and day-care (church, scouts, schools etc)

    • Prevention: Easy to intervene but hampered by secrecy, self-protection

  • Domestic

    • Home of victim or offender

    • Prevention: Relatively high base rates but hard to intervene


Suggested Prevention Strategies: Public Settings

  • Target hardening

    • Protective behaviours

    • Strengthening guardianship

  • Controlling tools

    • Child pornography controls

  • Utilizing place managers

    • Security staff to recognise grooming

  • Strengthening formal surveillance

    • Surveillance of high-risk locations

    • Surveillance of Internet chat rooms

  • Increasing natural surveillance

    • Design of public toilets

    • Design of playgrounds


Suggested Prevention Strategies: Institutional Settings

  • Controlling access

    • Visitors to report to office

    • Register of guardians to pick up children

    • Employee screening

  • Strengthening formal surveillance

    • Protocols for dealing with children

    • Regular inspections and reviews

  • Increasing natural surveillance

    • Glass panels in doors of interview rooms

  • Reducing permissibility

    • Humanising ‘total institutions’


Suggested Prevention Strategies: Domestic Settings

  • Extending guardianship

    • Teaching parents to recognise grooming

    • House rules for visitors

  • Controlling prompts

    • Supervising intimate tasks (bathing etc)

    • Offenders to avoid tempting situations

    • Siblings not sharing beds

    • Single room accommodation

  • Reducing permissibility

    • Alcohol controls

    • Direct challenges (eg via TV)


Implementation Issues:

  • Displacement?

  • Fuelling a moral panic, siege mentality?

  • Shifting responsibility to victims?

  • Access to premises – need to work through ‘capable guardians’


Conclusions

  • Current approaches to sexual violence and abuse based on misconceptions

    • Screening will not identify most potential offenders

    • Treatment/surveillance of known offenders will not prevent new offenders

  • Not all offenders ‘driven’ to offend (at least not initially) – may be deterred by situational interventions before they offend

  • Even committed offenders may be deflected by situational strategies

  • Implementation not always easy - need to avoid ‘siege mentality’


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