The aim of this study was to examine from the routine activities approach how victim age might help to explain the timing, context and nature of offenders’ first known contact sexual abuse incident. One-hundred adult male child sexual abusers (M = 45.8 years, SD = 12.2; range = 20–84) were surveyed about the first time they had sexual contact with a child. Afternoon and early evening (between 3 pm and 9 pm) was the most common time in which sexual contact first occurred. Most incidents occurred in a home. Two-thirds of incidents occurred when another person was in close proximity, usually elsewhere in the home. Older victims were more likely to be sexually abused by someone outside their families and in the later hours of the day compared to younger victims. Proximity of another person (adult and/or child) appeared to have little effect on offenders’ decisions to abuse, although it had some impact on the level of intrusion and duration of these incidents. Overall, the findings lend support to the application of the routine activities approach for considering how contextual risk factors (i.e., the timing and relationship context) change as children age, and raise questions about how to best conceptualize guardianship in the context of child sexual abuse. These factors should be key considerations when devising and implementing sexual abuse prevention strategies and for informing theory development.
Bibliographical noteThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
- Sexual abuse onset
- Routine activities approach
- Situational theories
- Offence timing
- Victim age
McKillop, N., Brown, S. J., Wortley, R., & Smallbone, S. (2015). How victim age affects the context and timing of child sexual abuse: applying the routine activities approach to the first sexual abuse incident. Crime Science, 4, 17. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40163-015-0031-8