Gallagher, Bernard, Bradford, Michael and Pease, Ken (2008) Attempted and completed incidents of stranger-perpetrated child sexual abuse and abduction. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32 (5). pp. 517-528. ISSN 0145-2134

To establish the prevalence, typology and nature of attempted or completed incidents of stranger-perpetrated sexual abuse or abduction of children “away from home”.

A questionnaire was completed by 2,420 children (83% response rate) aged 9–16 years in 26 elementary and high schools in North-West England.

Of these children, 19.0% (n = 461) reported that they had been the victims of any attempted or completed sexual abuse or abduction incident away from home at some point in their lives. Of these children, 161 (6.7% of the original sample) reported that the “last” incident had been perpetrated by a stranger. Based upon these last incidents, four main types of attempted or completed CSA or abduction incident were identified: indecent exposure (40.8% of victims), touching (25.8%), and abduction (23.1%), each occurring on their own; and incidents involving multiple types of act (10.2%). The majority of these abductions (91.1%) and touching incidents (50.9%) were attempted as opposed to completed. Rates of victimization were generally higher among girls than boys (10.4% vs. 4.2%, p < .001). A sizeable minority of victims had experienced sexual abuse or abduction previously (28.8%). The large majority of incidents were carried out by males (88.2%). Most incidents occurred when children were accompanied by their peers (67.9%). Many victims were frightened by their experience (46.9% very frightened) and the large majority made a disclosure (79.9%). Only a minority of incidents were reported to the police (33.3%).

Incidents of attempted and completed stranger CSA and abduction are distinct from CSA and abduction by known persons, go against stereotypes, are complex, and give rise to a number of key issues that may have implications for prevention and intervention.

Practice implications
Professionals involved in child protection should undertake work to reduce the risk of existing victims of CSA or abduction becoming victims of stranger CSA or abduction, and the risk of attempted incidents becoming completed ones. They also need to encourage the disclosure and reporting of attempted and completed stranger CSA and abduction incidents.

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