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Preventing sexually abused young people from becoming abusers, and treating the victimization experiences of young people who offend sexually

Arnon Bentovim
Child Abuse & Neglect 2002, 26 (6-7): 661-78

OBJECTIVE: This study was designed to determine whether it is possible to prevent those sexually abused boys who are at risk of abusing other children from doing so, and to assess whether factors associated with an experience of sexual abuse in young people who are offending can be dealt with as a key aspect of therapeutic work alongside treatment of offending behavior.

METHOD: The author examined cross-sectional and longitudinal research which demonstrates the impact on sexually abused children of living in a climate of violence, suffering physical abuse, exposure to abuse of maternal figures, and suffering disruption and poor quality of care and supervision. These factors are confirmed in prospective research.

RESULTS: The application of these findings to therapeutic programs for boys who are sexually abused is described, including the assessment of care needs as well as the specific therapeutic work with the young person, and work to modify the family context. The specific treatment of victimization experiences in young people who have committed sexual offenses is also examined, with recommendations for modification of treatment approaches suggested.

CONCLUSION: It is vital in therapeutic work with boy victims of sexual abuse that the issue of their abusive potential be considered, even if a relatively small proportion of such boys will go on to abuse others. Given that boys who do sexually abuse are likely to have grown up in a climate of violence and poor care, methods of dealing with such victimization experiences need to be developed alongside offending focused treatments.


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