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Professional Perpetrators: Sex Offenders Who Use Their Employment To Target and Sexually Abuse the Children With Whom They Work

NCJ Number
Child Abuse Review Volume: 11 Issue: 3 Dated: May-June 2002 Pages: 153-167
Joe Sullivan; Anthony Beech
Date Published
May 2002
15 pages
This paper explores the literature and research studies that have examined "professional perpetrators" of child sexual abuse, who use either the institutions or organizations within which they work to target and abuse children.
Gallagher (2000) indicates that the policy and legislative responses to professional perpetrators of child sexual abuse in Great Britain can be divided into two broad categories: childcare practice and attempts to control abusers. The Children Act 1989 was the first major legislative response to institutional child abuse; it provided the impetus for a series of attempts to regulate and standardize practice within residential and daycare facilities. The Criminal Justice and Court Services Act contains provisions intended to prevent persons with prior histories of abuse from being employed in childcare institutions or organizations. This act makes it a criminal offense for anyone with a conviction for an offense against a child to seek employment to work with children in the future. In the United Kingdom, a number of inquiries have focused on the nature and extent of the problem of child abuse within institutions and organizations that work with children. The Utting (1998) inquiry proposed the establishment of a high standard for employment qualifications that would deter chronic abusers; management oversight of employees to ensure children are protected from abuse; disciplinary and criminal procedures that deal effectively with offenders; and an approved system of communicating information about known abusers between agencies with a need to know. Any organization or institution, whether statutory or voluntary, that cares for children is vulnerable to infiltration by professionals who intend to abuse the children, including child care institutions, foster care, churches, schools, and voluntary organizations. Faller (1988) found that the majority of offenders in an institutional setting were deliberately seeking situations in which they might abuse children. Studies of the various types of behavior used by perpetrators suggest that there is no one type of institutional or professional perpetrator. Sloan (1988), however, suggests that "authoritarian" and "controlling" characteristics were most typical of professional perpetrators, but Rowlands (1995) found that although some were "authoritarian" or "charismatic," others were found to be "quiet," "unassuming," or "inadequate." Overall, there is some indication that the key difference between professional perpetrators and other extrafamilial sex offenders is the level of sophistication of the techniques used by the professionals to manipulate the victims and those who might protect them. More research into the characteristics of the perpetrators and their behavior is needed to ensure comprehensive child protection within institutions and organizations charged with caring for children. 54 references