Reference Whittle, H. C., Hamilton-Giachritsis, C. E., & Beech, A. R. (2015). A Comparison of Victim and Offender Perspectives of Grooming and Sexual Abuse. Deviant Behavior, 36(7), 539-564.
Professionals are often faced with differing accounts of what happened in cases of sexual abuse and grooming. Who is to be believed when, at times, each account can sound plausible?
In a small but excellent study, Whittle et al. interviewed three victims of sexual abuse and grooming as well as the perpetrators in order to explore both perspectives of the same incidents. A semi-structured interview was used with all parties, with thematic analysis as the methodology. The victims were aged between 12 and 14 when the abuse occurred which began as online grooming and resulted in on line and off line sexual abuse. The offenders were aged between 20 and 49 when they perpetrated the offences. Findings reported:
• Contact as described by the offender showed victim blaming
• Agreement between victims and offenders that the latter engaged in flattery and kindness
• All victims also reported experiencing nastiness from the offender
• All participants disagreed as to who initiated sexual aspect of the contact
• All participants disagreed as to the requests for sexual photographs and videos
• Grooming was different between each child and offender
• All victims had pre-existing vulnerabilities
• Victims felt ‘enmeshed’ in the relationship (p.21)
• Offenders’ cognitive distortions were evident during interview
• The victims did not see the sexual contact with the offenders as abusive at the time when it was occurring but did retrospectively-this was attributed to the extent of grooming they experienced
• All offenders were consider to be ‘contact driven’ (Briggs et al., 2011)
The report also noted that victims may have wanted to be seen in a positive light, may have forgotten information and/or have reframed events as a coping strategy. A recommendation is for young people to be educated as to how they are likely to become sexually aroused when talking about sex/watching sexual material and that offenders may seek to capitalise on this natural occurrence.