Contemporary social and political constructions of victimhood and offending behaviour lie at the heart of regulatory policies on child sexual abuse. Legislation is named after specific child victims of high profile cases, and a burgeoning range of pre-emptive measures are enacted to protect an amorphous class of ‘all potential victims’ from the risk sex offenders are seen as posing. Such policies are also heavily premised on the omnipresent predatory stranger. These constructed identities, however, are at odds with the actual identities of victims and offenders of such crimes. Drawing on a range of literatures, the core task of this article is to confront some of the complexities and tensions surrounding constructions of the victim/offender dyad within the specific context of sexual offending against children. In particular, the article argues that discourses on ‘blame’ – and the polarised notions of ‘innocence’ and ‘guilt’ – inform respective hierarchies of victimhood and offending concerning ‘legitimate’ victim and offender status. Based on these insights, the article argues for the need to move beyond such monochromatic understandings of victims and offenders of sexual crime and to reframe the politics of risk accordingly.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Social Psychology