The Complete Guide to Sexual Abuse Assessments

By Martin C Calder.

Russell House Publishing


ISBN 1 898924 76 7

This book is part of an interesting and ambitious series aimed
at providing practitioners with a one-stop guide to risk
assessment. With contributions from experienced professionals, it
provides a timely critique of the Department of Health’s new
assessment framework and its limitations in respect of child sexual

With Simon Goulding and John Skinner, the author outlines an
ecological framework for the assessment of children and young
people who abuse, and male perpetrators. The difficult issue of
female perpetrators is put on the agenda successfully by Jane Wynne
and Helga Hanks despite their somewhat angry tone and rather
sweeping assumptions concerning denial.

Issues in working with protective and non-protective mothers are
explored comprehensively by Calder although this important chapter
is marred by the uncritical use of the term “sexually abusing
families”. Lynda Regan looks at self-protection skills for abused
children while Kate Rose captures the Alice in Wonderland
nature of decision-making concerning contact between the
perpetrator and the child.

The book’s strength comes from Calder’s ability to highlight the
gaps in existing guidance, to synthesise the available literature
and research in an accessible form and to propose ways of applying
theory to practice. He has pulled together an enormous amount of
information in a way which is bound to prove useful to
practitioners, managers and trainers across the inter-agency
network involved in risk assessment.

The book’s challenge to the failure of government guidance to
address the complexities of child sexual abuse is courageous. At
the same time, because it does not wish to “throw the baby out with
the bath water”, it reformulates rather than breaks the mould. As a
result, the book has its limitations. The focus is on
intra-familial abuse and the ecological perspective is not strong
on gender, politics and the impact of fear on policy and practice
since Cleveland.

Perhaps a one-stop guide is a rather over-ambitious goal. It
does not actually replace other sources but is a useful,
comprehensive and well-informed guide. In particular, it highlights
the dangers of the drive to reduce the threshold of intervention
and need for professionals to address the tension between
operational procedures and the real dynamics of child sexual

Sue Richardson is an independent psychotherapist and
trainer and the co-author and co-editor of Child Sexual Abuse:
Whose Problem? (Venture Press, 1991)

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