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Sex Crimes and the Media  

Tanya Serisier

In media representations the term sex crimes most frequently refers to rape and child sexual abuse, although it can include a wider range of acts such as exhibitionism and voyeurism. While the majority of these crimes receive little media attention, certain sensational sex crimes are prominent topics in news and entertainment media. Media attention tends to focus on violent crimes committed by “dangerous” strangers, largely defined as poor men of color, and crimes committed against white and middle-class victims. These representations provide a distorted image of the reality of sex crimes, which most frequently occur in private settings, by someone known to the victim. Media coverage has also been criticized for focusing on the actions and responsibility of victims, suggesting that victim behavior, such as drinking, flirting, or being in the “wrong place at the wrong time” precipitates sexual violence. Again, these representations vary significantly according to race and class, with white and middle-class victims more likely to receive sympathetic coverage, particularly if their assailant is from a lower-class or more marginal racial or ethnic background. The emergence of the second-wave feminist movement in the 1970s, however, has led to some changes in media representations of sex crimes. Subsequent decades have seen an increase in sympathetic reporting around victims and increased reporting of crimes perpetrated by acquaintances and family members. There has been a growth in feminist voices and views in media reporting, as well as increased focus on the responsibilities and failings of criminal justice systems. Recent years have seen several examples of media coverage or “rediscovery” of previously ignored allegations against celebrities. Sex crimes have become a highly controversial and contested area, and media coverage reflects this, sometimes supporting progressive social and cultural change and sometimes providing a vehicle for “backlash” sentiments. Social media has been a driver of changes in the media landscape around sexual violence in recent years has provided a new forum for survivors to disseminate their stories but has also been marked by online harassment and abuse.

Article

Family Violence  

Tara E. Sutton and Leslie Gordon Simons

Family violence encompasses a broad range of maltreatment types between family members including physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, as well as neglect and financial exploitation. Such violence includes child maltreatment, sibling abuse, intimate partner violence, and elder mistreatment. Family violence is relatively common and represents a significant social, legal, and public health problem. Specifically, research shows that rates of family violence range from 10% to 45% across family relationships in the United States. Moreover, family violence tends to occur in a socioecological context characterized by risk and vulnerability and is related to various negative consequences including psychological distress, health risks, injury, and even death. Despite overlap in the causes and consequences of family violence, work on each type has largely developed independently. However, several theoretical perspectives have been offered that apply broadly to this important social issue. Additionally, existing criminological theories can be utilized to understand the nature and consequences of family violence.

Article

Child Sexual Exploitation  

Jonah R. Rimer

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a broad term that refers to a form of child sexual abuse (CSA) involving some combination of particular elements including power imbalance, grooming, manipulation, coercion, deception, fraud, force, threats, exchange, or status. Definitions, research, and resources are inconsistent and often conflate different kinds of CSE and CSA, making the concept difficult to generalize and questioning the utility of separating CSE from CSA. There are also persistent misunderstandings and myths that continue to pervade society, including “stranger danger” and the notion that CSE cannot happen in one’s own community, which have potential to negatively impact community protective behaviors. There are multiple kinds of CSE, both offline and online, and demarcating offline and online is not always possible or advisable. More than one type of CSE may be present in a single case because they are not mutually exclusive. These include child sexual exploitation material (CSEM), livestreaming, capping, online sexual solicitation and child luring, sextortion, commercial sexual exploitation, CSA tourism, human trafficking, and forced marriage. Common among these, although potentially in different forms, is a process of grooming. Because CSE is diverse, it is difficult to generalize about offenders and victims. However, victims are more likely to be female, whereas offenders are more likely to be male. Also common across crime types are a host of social, emotional, personal, and physical effects on and consequences for victims, some of which may be exacerbated if there are online elements such as images or videos. Current best practice suggests that responding to victims should be done through a trauma-informed approach that avoids victim-blaming. For offenders, risk management is done through assessments, post-release laws, and treatment, all of which have their own limitations. Because CSE is complex and includes a range of crimes, different theoretical and conceptual perspectives can be applied to the topic. Some of these focus on sexual offending against children generally, whereas others situate CSE within more macro structures. These theories and perspectives include Lanning’s situational versus preferential offender typology, the psychological concept of “cognitive distortions,” Finkelhor’s model of preconditions to CSA, the Good Lives Model of offending and rehabilitation, ecological systems theory, criminological perspectives that emphasize situational and environmental factors, and anthropological perspectives on the internet. Prevention of CSE victimization should be evidence-based and not founded on misconceptions or myths; however, not all prevention programs have engaged with realistic and accurate understandings of CSE. Overall, CSE is complex, and nuance is required in research, practice, and policy to reflect this complexity.