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Middlesex and University of East London academics to conduct research to develop a better understanding of perpetrators of child sexual abuse

02/07/2018
MDX and University of East London researchers have been selected to develop an offending typology of child sexual abuse (CSA)

The Centre of Expertise of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA Centre) has commissioned academics at Middlesex and the University of East London (UEL) to undertake an 18 month study to develop and test a typology of CSA offending to address current gaps in knowledge and inconsistent approaches to the nature of offending.

Following a competitive bid, the CSA Centre awarded the contract to the Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies (CATS) and Forensic Psychological Services (FPS) at Middlesex University. The team was chosen due to their subject expertise, extensive experience and robust methodological approach.

The project will be co-led by Dr Elena Martellozzo (MDX) and Professor Julia Davidson (UEL) and supported by Dr Daniela Lup (MDX) and Professor Joanna Adler (MDX). The team has worked with the wider CSA sector for more than three decades and has strong existing networks with police, health services, social services, prisons and third sector organisations across the UK, EU  and internationally. Research and practitioner training related to this work has been carried out by the team across social, charity, voluntary services and the National Crime Agency (CEOP), the Metropolitan Police, the NSPCC, the Ministry of Justice, the Children’s Commissioner for England and the National Probation Service.

“Current ‘typologies’ or ‘models’ of CSA have largely been developed by those working in criminal justice and child protection to help them describe what they see in their practice.  This is an understandable response but has led to inconsistencies and confusion regarding what we mean when we use terms to describe different types of child sexual abuse. We need to investigate an alternative evidence-based approach. This research will contribute to filling those gaps”. Dr Elena Martellozzo

Commenting on the research, Professor Davidson said: “This project will explore the fluidity of online and offline offending behaviours and contexts across offence categories, it has important implications for practice and criminal justice policy in this high priority area.”

Dr Martellozzo added: “Current ‘typologies’ or ‘models’ of CSA have largely been developed by those working in criminal justice and child protection to help them describe what they see in their practice.  This is an understandable response but has led to inconsistencies and confusion regarding what we mean when we use terms to describe different types of child sexual abuse. We need to investigate an alternative evidence-based approach. This research will contribute to filling those gaps”.

The research will focus on this approach - the typology will describe the ways and contexts in which children are sexually abused and how these may overlap. For example, it will show, based on evidence, if ‘organised exploitation’ or ‘grooming gangs’ are a clearly defined type of offending, and if so, what the characteristics are and how these overlap with other forms of CSA offending.

The researchers will not be interviewing or working directly with those who have sexually abused children and will therefore not specifically look at the motivations of those who offend. Also, it is not the aim of this project to present a picture of the scale of CSA but to focus on the nature of sex offences against children.

The aim of the Centre of expertise on child sexual abuse (CSA Centre) is to create a future where children are free from the threat and harm of sexual abuse by radically improving how we prevent and respond to the issue through really understanding its causes, scope, scale and impact.

The Centre of Expertise on child sexual abuse is focused on building knowledge and understanding by:

  • Collating and analysing existing research, policy, practice and the real experiences of those affected, and filling the gaps we identify with new research, insights and analysis.
  • Using that evidence and insight to challenge and improve existing policy and practice, develop new approaches and increase everyone’s knowledge and confidence to more effectively tackle the issue.

Find out more about studying Criminology at Middlesex.

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