The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has released a literature review examining international evidence of risk and protective factors for child sexual abuse in institutional contexts.
Royal Commission acting CEO Marianne Christmann said the study reviewed more than 400 documents primarily comprised of research studies. The report considers risk and protective factors in relation to victims, perpetrators and institutions.
Risk Profiles for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse: A literature review noted that many children spend a significant amount of time in institutional settings, and while some children were more vulnerable than others, all children are inherently vulnerable to child sexual abuse in institutional settings when a motivated perpetrator is present.
“The child’s age has been identified as a factor influencing the risk of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts. Children aged between about 9 and 15 appear to be at higher risk, though this may depend on the institution type children attend” Ms Christmann said.
The report revealed there was no profile of a ‘typical’ sex offender, and noted offenders differed in their motivations and behaviours.
“Risk factors identified in relation to sexual offenders generally include deviant sexual interests, distorted attitudes about sex, and poor social skills,” Ms Christmann said.
“A number of broad conceptual categories of perpetrator motivation were identified, including the need for power and control, sexual motivation and personality deficits,” Ms Christmann said.
The review also noted that screening processes by institutions were not as effective as widely believed, as many perpetrators have no criminal history or their criminal history does not involve sexual offences, meaning they would pass through a criminal background check.
“Research also shows that the characteristics of an institution may increase the risk of staff members committing sexual crimes against children,” Ms Christmann said.
“These characteristics could include the physical condition of the facility, a lack of child safety policies and procedures, and poor training and supervision of staff,” Ms Christmann said.
The review was undertaken by international researchers Professor Keith Kaufman and Marcus Erooga.
This material will inform the Royal Commission’s recommendations to better protect children in institutions from child sexual abuse.
Read the full report.