Child Abuse Studies, Research and Freedom of Information

infoFollowing a Freedom of Information request, the University of Warwick have pointed me in the direction of the a study which is in their Publication Scheme. [3]

It is pleasing to see that some Universities are making papers and studies available directly to the public. That number is increasing.  Perhaps the most famous is Huddersfield University Research [5] which can be searched via that link and the statistics of downloads [6] are shown.

This is a great help for those researching child abuse and child sexual abuse who are not members of Universities or not able to pay for expensive Journals. Historically information has only been available to research workers in institutions which could afford expensive journals in printed form. Other information also was made available between Local Authorities, Social Work Departments, Crown Prosecution Service, Judiciary and the Police. However the victims and interested individuals never stood a chance either through having no permission to access information or lack of ability to pay unreasonable costs for information.  Nowadays more and more information is becoming  available in digital form for free that individuals can access, and use it to inform themselves and others, as well as using it to bring perpetrators or guilty authorities to account.

There is, as ever still a long way to go. Many institutions are still reticent to make information available that they think can be sold for profit or that may be used against them. Many people still want to keep their information available only to a clique, and even with Freedom of Information Regulations it is too easy for various institutions to jealously guard “their” information when  in fact the people concerned deciding on whether you get that information are civil servants and the information is paid for by the public.

The attitude of an institution can often be told by the name of the department in charge of the release of the information. If it is called “Information Security” or “Information Protection” it may well be less likely to release information than one called “Freedom of Information Department”. Often the release of information is  dependent on an individual who really enjoys exercising the power that the job conveys to him.  “I have today decided to withhold/release to you this information” is an all too common phrase. At present I will not name and shame.

It is also easy for the supposedly democratically elected and accountable politicians to turn at the very least a blind eye to hold institutions to account in their duty to divulge information, when divulging that information might release information about the mistakes made earlier in their political career.

Anyhow I digress. The study Warwick University showed me was Durham, Andrew (1999) Young men living through and with child sexual abuse : a practitioner research study. [2] PhD thesis, University of Warwick.  Or Download [1]

I cannot read it myself due to technical problems with Adobe Acrobat but following is the abstract and if anyone could help with a brief summary or their thoughts it would be appreciated.

Abstract Using an anti-oppressive life-story methodology, this research analyses the experience and impact of child sexual abuse on the lives of seven young men aged between 15 and 23. In recognising the sensitivity of the study, and that the young men’s experiences are recent, particular attention is paid to the impact of the research and the relevance of social work practitioner research. The study advances an analytical framework, which draws on the tensions between structuralism and poststructuralism Theoretical connections are made between the centrality of sexuality and power in post-structuralism, and the nature of experiences of child sexual abuse. This framework has a wide application for future studies, and has particular implications for future non-pathologising social work practice with sexually abused young men. Asymmetrical power relationships are shown to be characteristic of child sexual abuse. The thesis argues that it is important to understand the diversity, and socially contextualised nature of the young men’s experiences, in surviving the impact and aftermath of child sexual abuse. The thesis recognises the importance of understanding the resistance of the young men, and identifies some of the survival strategies they employed, in the extreme and adverse circumstances in which they became immersed. An oppressive context of patriarchal relations, characterised by compulsory heterosexism and homophobia has shaped and exacerbated the young men’s harmful experiences. Internalised oppression and power relationships generate beliefs and subsequent responses which affirm and perpetuate oppressive social constructions, and consequent marginalisation. Through its anti-oppressive methodology, its analytical framework, and its use of prior substantive knowledge and experience, the study presents a strong and fresh link between research, social work practice and future research. In making this link, the study explicates the role and skills of the practitioner researcher, and thereby strengthens the academic discipline of social work.

I actually applied for a PhD Thesis authored by AW Durham from 1993 called “From Victim to Survivorship” [8] which for some reason is not available. If anyone know the whereabouts of this it would also be greatly appreciated.

Another which caught my eye was the download  “Service responses to survivors of sexual violence : perspectives of National Health Service and voluntary sector professionals on inter-agency working with survivors” [4]

Abstract The first chapter of this thesis critically reviews the existing literature on Restorative Justice (RJ) for crimes of sexual violence. It considers whether RJ has a contribution to make to the psychological wellbeing of survivors, provides clinicians working in the field of sexual violence with an insight into the potential strengths, weaknesses and gaps in the evidence base for RJ for sexual violence and makes recommendations for further research. The reviewed literature revealed some evidence that supports the use of RJ for crimes of sexual violence. In particular, survivors and professionals who had experienced RJ first-hand reported positive outcomes. However, due to the sensitive nature of sexual violence and the potential for re-traumatisation of the survivor, it was clear from the reviewed papers that RJ needed to be approached with caution. Indeed, where RJ was employed, extensive preparation was consistently identified as a key element to its success. The aim of the second chapter is to gain an in-depth understanding of the perspectives of staff on inter-agency responses to survivors of sexual violence. Professionals from the National Health Service and voluntary sector were interviewed using focus group methodology. Data from focus groups was analysed using thematic analysis. The results highlighted that individual and organisational barriers impacted on services’ ability to work together and respond effectively to survivors. The final chapter provides a reflective account of the process of conducting a qualitative research study with professionals who work with survivors of sexual violence. Reflections focus on the impact of emotions on sexual violence research. The account considers both personal and epistemological factors relevant to the research process.

But search for yourself on the publication scheme link [3]

Freedom of Information Requests

A great site for making it easy to ask Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests and giving information about how to do it is [9]. You can check out my FOI requests [10].

If you wish to know some information, my brief advice is do a bit of research into which authority is best to send it to, what questions to ask and how to phrase them, both of which can be checked on the site.

1.Remember that only information that is recorded in some form documents, photographs , video etc can be asked for- though sometimes it is easier for you and the authority to have a question answered without actually giving you the document itself- but the authority is within their rights to refuse a question that is not framed to ask for that recorded information.

2. You cannot ask for personal information – that comes under Data Protection Laws. Search for Subject Access Request under Data Protection.

3. The authority is required to tell you if it holds the information you have asked for and to give it you unless an exemption applies.  Various exemptions apply and it may seem daunting at first BUT do not be daunted as you have a powerful weapon at your disposal.

4. You are allowed to ask for advice and assistance under S16 [12] of FOI Acts 2000 [11] . The Authority is under a duty give you that advice and assistance to help you get the information you require, even if they do not particularly wish to give you that information – so sometimes it can be a game of cat and mouse. So do not be afraid to state “Please could you give me advice and assistance under S16 to explain why this or that is or is not the case/ point me to the Information Commissioners Offices ICO [13] Guidance/ explain that exemption / give me assistance to how I might clarify my request etc

5 The ICO is the other source of Guidance. It is divided into information for individuals and information for the public and for organisations. However after learning the basics from the public links, go to the links for organisations as it is there that the ICO tells the organisations what they can get away with in the way of exemptions etc BUT there is no equivalent public information about what to do when the authority tries it on- eg taking the full 2o working days to reply to then ask for clarification , which then classifies it as a new request taking another 20 working days. This is just one example but I hope to expand on this FOI advice soon in another blog- just be aware that you have to read between the lines on the organisation side of the ICO information. Also be aware that ICO gives guidance and this is only available on the “organisation ” side.

Please note that victims of abuse may be triggered by reading this information. The Sanctuary for the Abused [A] has advice on how to prevent triggers.  National Association for People Abused in Childhood [B] has a freephone helpline and has links to local support groups. Other useful sites are One in Four [C] and Havoca [D]

Links and References

[1] Durham, Andrew (1999) Young men living through and with child sexual abuse : a practitioner research study. PhD thesis, University of Warwick. Thesis download

[2] Durham, Andrew (1999) Young men living through and with child sexual abuse : a practitioner research study. PhD thesis, University of Warwick.

[3] University of Warwick publication scheme

[4] Bishop, Sarah M. (Researcher in clinical psychology) (2013) Service responses to survivors of sexual violence : perspectives of National Health Service and voluntary sector professionals on inter-agency working with survivors. DClinPsych thesis, University of Warwick.

[5] Huddersfield University Research and Repository

[6] Huddersfield University Research download statistics


[8] “From Victim to Survivor” an unpublished MA dissertation by Durham AW

[9] Whatdotheyknow FOI website

[10] Cathyfox FOI requests

[11] FOI Act 2000

[12] Section 16 FOI Act 2000

[13] Information Commissioners Office

[A] Sanctuary for the Abused




[C] One in Four


[D] Havoca

cathyfox    the truth will out

About cathy fox blog on Child Abuse

the truth will out, the truth will shout, the truth will set us free...
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