This volume presents results from a series of empirical studies conducted in the field of child protection in Ireland. These throw light of the epidemiology of child sexual abuse, and their familes, and important treatment-related issues. Nevertheless, the articles themselves go beyond the shores of Ireland to review research and clinical studies carried out in other parts of the world, especially Great Britain and North America. In doing so, this book provides an exceptional compilation of research work conducted by Irish academics and clinicians. However, within the topic of child sexual abuse itself there have been different levels of acceptance and therefore progress made. First to be recognised was the sexual victimisation of children by strangers and acquaintances, then sexual abuse in the home by parents and relatives and lastly sexual abuse within child care institutions by those individuals entrusted with the protection of children in need. Each group of perpetrators has challenged the understanding of policy makers, professionals and the public.
Most challenging is the idea that sexual assault of children is carried out by other older children, adolescents and teenagers in one of every three cases. Therefore, children in institutions are at risk from some of their fellow peers in addition to some of the carers who have entered their environment to victimise rather than to help. The most significant aspects of this volume, are the detailed works on adolescent perpetrators. The aversive background of these adolescent perpetrators in terms of abuse, neglect and abandonment is all too obvious. The consequential residential care also can continue these aversive experiences. Even today, six Irish children in every ten thousand are institutionalised in residential care according to official statistics from the Irish Government. Therefore, there is an urgency to understand and intervene with adolescent perpetrators before the cycle of sexual violence becomes entrenched. In addressing the needs of victims, a public health approach to the prevention of child sexual abuse is most relevant. Therefore, contributions on the epidemiology are essential in terms of incidence and aetiology.
It appears from the research that sexual abuse in Ireland is typical of Western Europe in the number and characteristics of victims and perpetrators. Nevertheless, a national prevalence study of child sexual abuse in Ireland has only recently been carried out. As in other countries an anonymous stratified sample of teenage school children is essential for determining prevalence. As well as thoroughly reading this volume, I look forward to the future contributions from Irish authors to the Journals of Child Abuse and Neglect, Child Abuse Review, Child Care in Practice and the Irish Journal of Psychology, who kindly gave permission for the contributions to be presented in this book.