Child sexual abuse : a phenomenological study of the experience of adult male perpetrators.
Sexual abuse of children has been a problem for decades not only in South Africa, but internationally. There is little evidence that any preventative measures are working effectively. In this study the focus was not on the victim but on the perpetrator of sexual abuse. The researcher aimed at enabling eight adult male sexual offenders to describe explicitly their lived experience of child sexual abuse. The study used a method in which offenders were asked to describe their feelings prior to, during the process and after sexually abusing the child. The researcher believed that verbalisation of how it feels to sexually abuse the child would augment the available knowledge about perpetrators. This information may be used in devising ways and means of minimising the occurrence of sexual abuse. It might serve as a springboard for professional people working with offenders to uncover cognitive skills for sexual offenders to use whenever having thoughts of sexually abusing the child. Respondents were Blacks, Indians and Whites who had been sentenced and were in treatment programmes either at the Correctional Supervision Centre or at Childline in Durban. Treatment at these rehabilitation centres was a condition of sentence for all of them. Their ages ranged from 25-48 years. Five of them were married and three were single men. Svensson"s (1986) phenomenological method was used in analysing data. The findings of this study revealed that for these offenders the major contributing factors to this behaviour was a conflictual adult heterosexual relationship and the fact that other females have more than one sexual partner. Findings also revealed that children are experienced by sexual offenders as being satisfying sexually, non-judgemental, non-threatening and accepting. These findings were examined in relation to theory, their implications for future research, the strengths and shortcomings of the study were also described.