The Role of Social Work in Relation to Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse
Over the decades the prevalence of child abuse has been phenomenal.
Throughout Britain the abuse of children is an issue which is no
longer hidden or covered up, not a week goes by where a newspaper
doesn't report the beating of a young child, the neglect of another or
the arrest of a paedophile. These stories have always existed, from
Cleveland to Fred West. The public reacts to these stories, asking why
no-one stopped it?
Child abuse is a huge arena and so I am going to concentrate on Sexual
abuse and I intend to look at what it is that the social worker does
in dealing with child sexual abuse. For many, it has taken decades to
admit that child sexual abuse exists, in the past it has been brushed
off has childhood fantasy or a misunderstanding. Today however, the
sexual abuse of children is taken very seriously.
I am going to take a look at some of the laws and policies followed by
social workers dealing with sexual abuse cases or suspected cases of
sexual abuse. Also, the involvement of the social worker in treating
victims, I will take a look at the media representation of social work
and also a look at a few cases.
In 1976, Schecter and Roberge defined child sexual abuse as;
"The involvement of dependent, developmentally immature children and
adolescents in sexually abusive activities they do not fully
comprehend, to which they are unable to give informed consent or that
violate the social taboos of family roles" (Child abuse and neglect
1989: page 210)
Most definitions of sexual abuse go on to explain what acts constitute
a sexually abusive act. As well as there being a possible act of
intercourse, penetration with the finger or other objects, most
definitions cover oral sex, masturbation, sexual kissing and fondling
with or without clothes as a barrier. These acts are referred to as
'contact abuse'. Other non-contact acts such as exposure of the
genitals, watching sexual activities take place, either in person or
on video, participation in pornographic photos and exposure to erotic
magazines are also seen by most as sexual abuse.
Any child is a potential victim of sexual abuse, one UK study found
that half of all girls and a quarter of all boys will have experienced
some form of sexual abuse before the reach their 18th Birthday. (Kelly
et al.,1991) In 1995, the NSPCC conducted a survey on child abuse in
Britain and found that 1 in 6 adult reported that they had been
involved in sexually abusive activities as children.
Most children are sexually abused by someone they know, often by
someone in their own home. Abusers may be I positions of authority
over the child, such as parent, other relatives, carer's, teachers,
family friends, care workers, the list is endless. They may be...