Session: The Role of Childhood Victimization and Trauma in the Development and Prevention of Sexual Violence (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

205 The Role of Childhood Victimization and Trauma in the Development and Prevention of Sexual Violence

Friday, January 22, 2021: 1:15 PM-2:15 PM
Cluster: Violence against Women and Children
Symposium Organizer:
Melissa Grady, PhD, The Catholic University of America
Traumatic experiences can adversely impact neurological zones responsible for higher order thinking, or executive functioning (Steinberg, 2008), which can contribute to a host of psychological and behavioral deficits (Jaffee & Maikovich-Fong, 2014), including sexual offending behaviors by youth (Nikulina & Spatz-Widom, 2013) and adults (Jespersen, Lalumiere, & Seto, 2009). Some theoretical frameworks have integrated these as causal steps to sexual violence (Grady, Levenson, & Bolder, 2016; Marshall & Barbaree, 1990; Marshall &Marshall, 2000; Ward, 2014), as the intersection of early life abuse and relational experiences can contribute to deficits in regulation that can, in turn, sequentially lead to sexually violent behaviors. Although some attention has been given to testing the sequela of adverse childhood experiences leading to problem sexual behavior (e.g. Grady, Yoder, Brown, 2018), there remains a dearth of research testing such theories, leaving a gap for social workers in our understanding of how to prevent sexual abuse.

In this symposium, we will present three interrelated research papers that empirically explore the connections between early life abuse, later problems with sexual behavior in youth, and what mitigates continued sexual abuse, including how therapeutic interventions aimed at reducing risk for sexual violence address childhood trauma within the current models of treatment. In the first paper, we will present research that explores the role of positive caregiver styles, and how they may mitigate the effects of cumulative trauma events on trauma symptomatology. In the second paper, we will present findings from a study that explored how the relationship between trauma and executive functioning can influence sexual offending behaviors among adolescents. Finally, in the third paper we will present the results of a research project that compared the perceptions of clients who have participated in sexual offending treatment and clinicians who provide such treatment about how the clients’ childhood traumas are integrated into the treatment process aimed at reducing risk levels for recidivism. Treatment, research, and policy implications will be discussed after each presentation. We will focus especially on prevention and intervention strategies that social workers can use in practice settings, with special attention on the potential impact of racial and socioeconomic disparities.

* noted as presenting author
How Trauma Informed Is Our Field? What Clients Vs. Clinicians Say
Melissa Grady, PhD, The Catholic University of America; Jill Levenson, PhD, Barry University
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