Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Carol Stalker

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


Helping professionals and women, themselves, have been reluctant to recognize or acknowledge that females can and do sexually abuse children and adolescents. Research has also demonstrated that females most at risk to abuse children are those who were themselves victims of severe child sexual abuse (CSA) The purpose of this research was to explore whether or not current counselling practices with women survivors of CSA reflect the belief that women do not sexually abuse children. This study also focuses on whether or not therapists create space for discussion about thoughts and behaviour involving sexual abuse of children and adolescents with their women survivor clients, and if so, how this is done.

This mixed methodological study examined social workers’ and other counsellors’ beliefs about what constitutes CSA, who commits sexual abuse, and the relationship between their beliefs and their self-reported behaviour in counselling practice with women survivors. During the first phase of the study, therapists from across Canada who work with women survivors were surveyed. Telephone interviews were conducted in the second phase with selected study participants to further examine their practice with women survivors.

The survey demonstrated that 70% of respondents thought it was important to inquire about thoughts or behaviour involving sexual abuse of children, however, a key finding was the apparent discrepancy between the therapists’ stated ideals and their description of their actual practices. Also, the respondents’ beliefs about what constituted sexually abusive behaviour differed significantly depending on the gender of the person perpetrating the behaviour. Male perpetration was identified as more inappropriate than female-perpetration for a similar scenario. The telephone interviews provided further information regarding how to best approach women survivors about the possibility of thoughts or behaviours involving sex with children and the potential consequences to such an inquiry.

The study concludes that counselling practices with women survivors of CSA should include the exploration of the woman’s experience in terms of thoughts or behaviours involving sex with children and/or adolescents and that this exploration should be conducted in a sensitive and professional manner. Recommendations of how to conduct the explorations sensitively were suggested by participants.

Convocation Year


Included in

Social Work Commons