Strength-based approaches to online child sexual abuse: using self-management strategies to enhance desistance behaviour in users of child sexual exploitation material

Publication Date07 Aug 2017
AuthorHannah Merdian,Danielle Kettleborough,Kieran McCartan,Derek E. Perkins
SubjectHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Criminal psychology,Sociology,Sociology of crime & law,Deviant behaviour,Public policy & environmental management,Policing,Criminal justice
Strength-based approaches to online child
sexual abuse: using self-management
strategies to enhance desistance
behaviour in users of child sexual
exploitation material
Hannah Merdian, Danielle Kettleborough, Kieran McCartan and Derek E. Perkins
Purpose Increasing numbers of convictions for the use of child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) call for
enhanced measures to prevent this type of offending. Strength-based approaches such as the good lives
model have made significant contributions to the management of offenders who have sexually abused
against children. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
Design/methodology/approach The present study explored the application of these models to the
rehabilitation and desistance behaviour of CSEM users, based on a thematic analysis of the self-managed
desistance strategies employed by 26 offenders.
Findings The findings confirmed the value of strength-based approaches in understanding
self-management strategies used to enhance desistance behaviour in CSEM users.
Research limitations/implications The empirical and theoretical findings were then combined into a
conceptual framework aimed to enhance preventative efforts and interventions targeted at undetected
CSEM users.
Originality/value This paper provides the first conceptual and empirical model of prevention and
desistance behaviour specific to CSEM offending.
Keywords Prevention, Good lives model, Desistance, Strengths-based approaches, Child sex offending,
Child sexual exploitation material
Paper type Research paper
The number of individuals being sentenced for child sex offences has increased across the UK
(Crown Prosecution Service, 2016), resulting in significant policing and criminal justice demands,
especially with regards to the investigation and management of historical and internet-related
offending behaviour. For online offenders in particular, the issue of safe and cost-effective
offender management is compounded by the fact that the existing empirical research body on
online offenders is still limited and diverse, often based on very small and heterogeneous sample
sizes (see Babchishin et al., 2015). Thus, it is important to consider existing research, treatment,
and policy conjointly to inform innovative ways of preventing and responding to online child
sex offenders (see McCartan et al., under review).
With the increase of conviction rates for viewing, distribution, and production of online child
sexual exploitation material (CSEM) in the last two decades, a need emerged to explore online
child sexual abuse both empirically and conceptually, initially to inform offender risk assessment
and sentencing decisions (e.g. Long et al., 2016; Taylor et al., 2001; Webb et al., 2007) and then
to develop effective and risk-appropriate interventions for this type of sexual offending behaviour
(e.g. Hayes and Middleton, 2006).
Received 31 October 2016
Revised 31 March 2017
Accepted 24 April 2017
Part of this research has been
funded through a research grant
by the National Organisation of the
Treatment of Abusers.
Hannah Merdian is a Senior
Lecturer in Psychology and
Danielle Kettleborough is a PhD
Student, both at the School of
Psychology, University of
Lincoln, Lincoln, UK.
Kieran McCartan is an
Associate Professor in
Criminology at the Department
for Sociology and Criminology,
University of the West of
England, Bristol, UK.
Derek E. Perkins is based at the
School of Law, Royal Holloway
University of London,
London, UK.
DOI 10.1108/JCP-10-2016-0035 VOL. 7 NO. 3 2017, pp. 183-192, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2009-3829
PAG E 18 3

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