Child Sexual Abuse : Moral Panic or State of Denial? book cover
1st Edition

Child Sexual Abuse
Moral Panic or State of Denial?

ISBN 9781138578371
Published January 31, 2018 by Routledge
204 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Child sexual abuse is a major public policy challenge. Many child protection measures were beginning to reduce its occurrence. However, that progress was impeded by online grooming, the downloading of indecent images of children and even their abuse online in real time. This now places major demands on national and international policing. The book brings together groundbreaking case studies from a wide range of settings. As well as family members and those near the home, offenders can also be found in religious, sporting and childcare settings.

This extensive picture is drawn deliberately in order to highlight a split in the academic analysis of child sexual abuse. The mainstream or orthodox view, defended by the author, is that child sexual abuse is an under-reported crime. However, a minority view, presented but criticised, is that it is a moral panic created by public hysteria, child protection experts and campaigning politicians. By the end of the book, this division of academic opinion and its implications for public policy are explored in detail.

The book is essential reading for anyone interested in preventing child sexual abuse and the dilemmas of responding to both victims and perpetrators. It will be of particular use to practitioners in social work, the police and in the mental health professions.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments; Introduction; Chapter 1. Sleazy politicians and celebrities; Chapter 2. Conspiracies and conspiracy theories; Chapter 3. There’s no place like home?; Chapter 4. The religious betrayal of children; Chapter 5. The Trojan Horse: working with children; Chapter 6. Street life and the sexual exploitation of children; Chapter 7. Lessons from down under; Chapter 8. Is child sexual abuse a moral panic?; Chapter 9. Political defenders of 'intergenerational sex'; Chapter 10. Protecting children from sexual victimisation; Index

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David Pilgrim has spent his career divided between working as a clinical psychologist in the British NHS and researching mental health policy. Now semi-retired, he is Honorary Professor of Health and Social Policy at the University of Liverpool and Visiting Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Southampton, UK.


‘This book is a vital primer on the contemporary state of child sexual abuse. Pilgrim illuminates how the recent history of the normalization and trivialisation of child sexual abuse underlies proliferating contemporary scandals. He is an uncompromising witness to the multiple dimensions of the sexual exploitation of children, and attendant cover-up efforts by perpetrators, allies and collusive bystanders. His book establishes that child sexual abuse is a practice that is parasitic on social denial, and only possible when authorities, academics and the community prefer to look the other way. This book is a must-read for students and scholars of child abuse, and for readers looking for a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between trauma and social denial.’ – Dr Michael Salter, Senior Lecturer, Western Sydney University, Associate Editor of Child Abuse Review


'Survivors of childhood sexual abuse and a wealth of research provide a knowledge base about the impact and extent of abuse in institutional and family settings. Pilgrim presents the facts alongside case examples enabling analysis of theories, investigations and media reports. The book provides a unique, immensely important and timely contribution to the theory and practice of CSA. Pilgrim introduces concepts of ‘moral stupor’ and ‘webs of complicity’ whereby non-offenders do not challenge offending behaviour. In this courageous, measured and accessible book, Pilgrim interrogates the multiple barriers to challenging child sexual abuse and effective collective responsibility for the protection of children.' - Dr Liz Davies, Reader in Child Protection (Emeritus), London Metropolitan University