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The Impact of Perpetrator Gender on Male and Female Police Officers' Perceptions of Child Sexual Abuse

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Research in America, Canada and England indicates that professionals involved in the investigation of child sexual abuse cases have differing perceptions of seriousness, punishment and impact on the child, based on the professional's gender and the perpetrator's gender. The aim of this study was to investigate if such gender effects are prevalent in Australian child-abuse investigators, specifically the police. To assess this, 361 Australian police officers responded to a self-report questionnaire relating to a vignette describing child sexual abuse. The questions examined the police officer's perception of seriousness of the incident, the police action they would take and the perceived impact on the child. The vignette described the perpetrator as either male or female, with 172 police officers responding to the female perpetrator vignette and 189 responding to the male perpetrator vignette. The results indicated that, unlike overseas research findings in this area, the police officers' gender did not influence their perception of child sexual abuse, their perceived impact on the child, or the police action they would take. The gender of the perpetrator did however influence these factors, with a gender bias in favour of the female perpetrator. This finding is consistent with overseas research and is a factor that those working in the area should be aware of to ensure incidents involving female perpetrators are not underestimated or dismissed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Charles Sturt University, Australia

Publication date: 01 December 2004

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