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Title: Professionals who sexually abuse the children with whom they work
Author: Sullivan, Thomas Joseph
ISNI:       0000 0004 2703 3750
Awarding Body: The University of Birmingham
Current Institution: University of Birmingham
Date of Award: 2008
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The term 'professional perpetrators' was used to describe child abusers employed in professions working with children whom they subsequently sexually abused. A demographic review of professional perpetrators indicated that only 7.5% claimed they were unaware of their sexual arousal to children at the time they became employed in the profession where they molested children. Over 50% said they chose their profession to facilitate their access to children to abuse. In psychometric comparisons professional perpetrators were found to have fewer justifications and thinking errors than other child abusers, suggesting that they might be more keenly focused on society's disapproval of sexual contact with children. This, combined with institutional child protection procedures, might also suggest professional perpetrators would need to be more discriminating and discerning in their targeting, manipulation and sexual abuse of children. In an attempt to answer some of the issues raised in the earlier parts of the study a qualitative approach was adopted to explore the evolving offending patterns of this group in greater depth and to determine the degree to which their professional roles inhibited or augmented the abuse process. Early life experiences were found to be formative in the professional perpetrator's spiral into sexual abuse of children. These experiences influenced their perceptions, beliefs, sexual interests and behaviour. They used distortions and abuse supportive thinking to manage any guilt or fear they experienced and spoke of the significance of using masturbatory fantasy to enhance and reinforce their desires for sexual contact with children. Participants in the study all indicated that they believed fantasy played a significant part in driving and shaping their developing pattern of sexual abuse of children. Three key themes emerged from the accounts of the participants: • Functions of fantasy • Features of fantasy Themes in fantasy content. Given the link between the beliefs that arise from early life experiences and the distortions and abuse supportive cognitions it was anticipated that fantasy could also reflect the underlying belief system which participants had developed. The use of often complex grooming to facilitate their abuse was also a feature and focused primarily on manipulating perceptions, creating opportunities to abuse and preventing suspicion, disclosure or detection of the abuse. Identifying the manipulation styles employed by professional perpetrators was most helpful in understanding the nature of their behaviour. Accessibility and vulnerability of the victim were considered more important factors than perceived attractiveness in choice of victim.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available