Research Topic

Child Sexual Abuse: Empirical Research on Understanding and Helping Victims and Offenders

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About this Research Topic

Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a global public health problem impacting children across all socio-economic and ethnocultural strata. Understanding all the components that are directly or indirectly implicated in CSA is a complex endeavor. The causes, consequences and underlying mechanisms supporting CSA are ...

Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a global public health problem impacting children across all socio-economic and ethnocultural strata. Understanding all the components that are directly or indirectly implicated in CSA is a complex endeavor. The causes, consequences and underlying mechanisms supporting CSA are diverse and have a profound impact on the individual, the family, and the community. Furthermore, early identification of child victims and the investigation of alleged child sexual abuse are complex and improvements to current practices are necessary. Although there is a growing body of literature on this subject, more research is needed to understand all the components that are directly or indirectly implicated in CSA and how it has varied across contexts.

For example, given the fact that only a small proportion of CSA cases that come to the awareness of the authorities and the very low conviction rate for these crimes, there is an urgency for more research aiming to improve disclosure and develop child-friendly, evidence-based justice procedures and ways to recognize and intervene in CSA.

Additionally, rates of online CSA continue to rise, including inciting children to engage in online sexual activity, to send nude or semi-nude photos of themselves, engaging children in sexualized conversation and offenses related to accessing, downloading, creating and distributing images and video footage of CSA. Forms of CSA are heterogeneous and evolve in response to new technologies. The Internet and mobile technologies have enabled CSA in many ways, facilitating concealment and impeding detection. CSA requires now more than ever, greater research efforts to assist in risk assessment, prevention, treatment and detection efforts.

Furthermore, from a forensic psychological and legal research point of view, some significant knowledge-gaps related to both children as alleged victims and the suspects or perpetrators remain. These gaps include issues such as understanding disclosure (as well as non-disclosure) as dynamic processes, and the identification of the causal factors, characteristics, and motivations of undetected CSA offenders in order to develop and refine primary and secondary prevention programs to reduce CSA offending.

The aim of this Research Topic is to compile a comprehensive overview of the latest research findings on issues directly or indirectly related to CSA. We welcome original research articles, brief research reports, and reviews addressing at least one of the following issues:
• Child-friendly and evidence-based criminal and justice procedures
• Prevention, recognition, and intervention of CSA
• Online CSA
• New forms of CSA or new victims of CSA
• Disclosure as a dynamic process
• Characteristics and motivations of undetected CSA offenders
• Material and medical evidence

This Research Topic is an effort to create a multidisciplinary compilation, ranging from forensics, law and psychology, to criminology, social work and education, of the most updated work from experts in the field of child sexual abuse. We aspire for this Research Topic to become a frame of reference for future research and to stimulate informed scientific debate on Child Sexual Abuse.


Keywords: child sexual abuse, children, forensic investigation, evidence-based justice procedures, online grooming


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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