Project Title: Child sexual abuse by women: a genealogical approach to the constitution of an unthinkable crime

Principal Advisor: Emeritus Professor Peter Cryle

Project Abstract: In my thesis, I am going to suggest that in current child protection practice, the assumption females do actively engage in sexually abusive behaviour towards children is contested and for many, considered unthinkable. The assumption holds despite research showing otherwise, conducted in particular with people who have experienced sexual abuse in childhood. Increased attention to the sexual abuse of children is evident in current media debates and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. I am particularly interested to examine how we got to hold the view that women do not engage in sexual behaviour with children. The thesis aims to unpack and discuss a history of silence and secrecy fostering not seeing, which I will argue has its roots in 19th century discourses detailing characteristics of gender, the emergence of sexology and the ‘psy’ disciplines, and the proverbial stance of feminism, often depicting women as victims.

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