“You feel like you did something so wrong”: Women’s experiences of a loved one’s child sexual abuse material offending
A/Prof. Michael Salter1, Dr Delanie Woodlock, Mr Christian Jones
This article examines the experiences of female partners and relatives of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) offenders and the (il)legibility of their experiences within prevailing theoretical frameworks and policy responses to family violence. The article draws on the findings of an evaluation of PartnerSPEAK, an organisation in Victoria, Australia, that supports the non-offending partners, family and friends of CSAM offenders. Through our analysis of our survey and interviews with PartnerSPEAK clients, we map the absence of community and professional understanding that confronted women as they realised their partner or family member was a CSAM offender. We situate this gap within the “siloing” of domestic violence and child abuse as discrete areas of theory and practice, and the de-politicisation of child sexual abuse, in which child sexual abuse has been decoupled over time from feminist concerns with gendered violence and inequality. We trace how women navigated the systemic gaps and silences around their experiences and their development of a social and political framework through shared dialogue and advocacy. We argue that these insights offer a contemporary foundation and agenda for a feminist re-engagement with the politics of child sexual abuse.
Dr Michael Salter is the Scientia Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of New South Wales. His research is focused on child sexual exploitation, gendered violence and complex trauma. He is an expert advisor to the Australian eSafety Commissioner, White Ribbon Australia and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. He sits on the Board of Directors of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, who awarded him the 2018 Morton Prince Award for Scientific Achievement and appointed him as a Fellow of the Society in 2021.