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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Deflection, denial and disbelief: social and political discourses about child sexual abuse and their influence on institutional responses A rapid evidence assessment

Overlaps of denial and disbelief

1970s – 1990s

In the 1990s the concept of ‘False Memory Syndrome’ emerged, where individual reports or disclosures of child sexual abuse were viewed as the result of false memories of abuse (Scott 1997). This could be seen as a discourse of denial (as the clinical explanation of the ‘false memory syndrome’ might have been used to minimise the scale of child sexual abuse) and of disbelief (as it might have been used to undermine the credibility of victims and survivors). It was seen as having an influence in the legal arena (Nelson 2016).

2000s – 2010s

The discourse of ‘masculinity as incompatible with victimisation’ emerged most notably in the 2000s. It was consistently identified in the literature by victims and survivors and professionals as a barrier to the recognition of exploitation of boys (for example, Beckett et al., 2013; Gohir, 2013) and was evident in some serious case reviews. The idea that masculinity was incompatible with victimisation could be traced from the association of masculinity with sexual prowess and stereotypes of men as strong (McNaughton Nicholls, Harvey and Paskell, 2014).

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