Vol. 76, No. 1On the leading edge

Latest research in law enforcement

Researchers spoke with male survivors of sexual abuse about their experiences and levels of support from community agencies and law enforcement.


The following are excerpts from recent research related to justice and law enforcement and reflect the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of the organizations for which they work. To access the full reports, please visit the website links at the bottom of each summary.

Male survivors of sexual abuse and assault: their experiences

This study examines the experiences of male survivors of both child sexual abuse (CSA) and adult sexual assault (ASA).

Researchers worked closely with staff at two men's support centres. Staff provided input on the survey tool, helped recruit participants and provided follow-up counselling to participants if they requested it.

Letters of information and consent were provided to participants. Interviewers conducted a total of 59 semi-structured interviews, each interview lasting on average 45 minutes.


Of the 59 participants, two-thirds were between 36 and 54 years of age and three-quarters of the sample were Caucasian. There was a range of different levels of education from having completed elementary school to having a graduate degree. One third of the sample reported having a physical disability. And almost half had an annual income of less than $25,000.

Almost all of the participants reported having been sexually abused as a child and almost all of those said that the perpetrator had been someone they trusted, including family members. A smaller proportion reported having been sexually assaulted as an adult, with the majority having been victimized multiple times and the majority having also been sexually abused as a child.

Participants spoke of how few supports they had as children and how the men's centres were their main source of support today. Almost all participants spoke of having suffered depression and some suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Just over a quarter of those who had experienced CSA reported the abuse to police or told another individual who reported it. Two out of the 10 men who had experienced ASA reported it to police or told another individual who reported it.

Many reported the abuse/assault because they felt they needed to take action or it was recommended by a counsellor or family member or friend, or they needed to release feelings. The main reasons for not reporting to police included thinking that no one would believe them, feelings of shame, they didn't know they could report to police and there was no family support behind them.

Participants recommended that government and/or advocates raise awareness about the issue as they believe that there are still a lot of myths about sexual abuse/assault of males, as children and as adults.

Along these lines, participants also recommended training for all criminal justice professionals on the dynamics of sexual abuse/assault as well as interviewing and investigative techniques.

To access the full report, please visit: www.justice.gc.ca.

Developing an evidence-base for local policing in Scotland

By Dr. Elizabeth Aston and Professor Kenneth Scott

Some aspects of local policing have received considerable attention in recent policing literature. Community policing, in particular, has been the focus of much academic research both nationally and internationally.

Local policing covers a multitude of activities in which the police in Scotland are expected to engage. These include response policing, policing the "nighttime" economy, roads policing, volume crime investigation, maintaining order at major public events, executing warrants and other criminal justice-related duties, dealing with local disorder and anti-social behaviour, and some aspects of public protection.

The knowledge exchange project that this report is based on was funded through the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR)'s IMPAKT (Improving Police Action through Knowledge Transfer) program as an extension of the research undertaken by the SIPR post-doctoral research study on local policing in Scotland.

The new project was designed to build on this material by providing research support to the reform process in Scottish policing, in particular the work carried out by local police.

The scoping activities generated by the initial research overview identified some longer-term possibilities for using research evidence in ways that could both contribute to the emerging themes within local policing, and provide a basis for the development of new models and practices in local policing.

A database was created and populated with information from a wide range of key sources. It contains a series of short headline messages arising from these sources, which are linked to summaries of the original material and linked back to the original sources in full.

The main task now for the Scottish Local Policing Evidence Database is to test its value to Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority and community partners as Scotland's policing landscape moves from one structural merger to one of ongoing police reform and continuous improvement.

To access the full report, please visit: www.sipr.ac.uk.

Youth gangs in a remote Indigenous community: Importance of cultural authority and family support

By Teresa Cunningham, Bill Ivory, Richard Chenhall, Rachael McMahon and Kate Senior

The Indigenous community of Wadeye in the Northern Territory, Australia, has been described as a community under siege from continual gang violence.

The gangs appear to have emerged in the early 1980s and are generally defined through youth aligning themselves along cultural, clan and family affiliations into groups with contemporary Americanized gang characteristics, symbolic links with heavy metal music and clearly defined turf boundaries.

Although they do engage in some relatively minor drug (predominantly cannabis) distribution for profit, the rationale for these groups appears to be either as a provocative and offensive structure, or at other times as a defence mechanism.

This paper presents data from a survey of young people who were involved in gangs in Wadeye and interviews with gang members who were incarcerated in Darwin Correctional Centre.

The emergence of youth gangs in Wadeye

Between 2002 and 2004, there were 14 distinct gangs operating in the Wadeye region. Ages of members in the younger gangs generally range from about seven to 14 years old. However, with the older and more powerful groups, the ages range from about 15 to 25 years.

In terms of the impact of gang membership on family and community networks, the causal model of gang development suggests that gang membership usually results in the dislocation of gang members from their family and community.

The weakening of conventional bonds elevates risk for antisocial behaviour and the internalization of antisocial values. The youth gangs in Wadeye have evolved in an environment that is characterized by substantial social and economic disadvantage.

The community is very much at a crossroads in addressing this disadvantage in the sense that, although indentified as a community that will be provided with increased infrastructure and program funding, these initiatives will only benefit the community if adult dependency on welfare is addressed and the working-age population are provided with opportunities to become providers rather than just consumers of resources.

The formation of gangs, which may have benefits of social capital for their members, may be considered to be as much a response to this community environment as the cause of it.

Gangs are generally linked with criminal behaviour, even though they may consist of members who only spend time together hanging out rather than those gangs who engage in violent, serious crime.

This Wadeye case study provides an additional perspective to the generally held perceptions of gang-type activity, such as illegal drug use and violent behaviour, in that it examines what support gangs may provide in terms of social networks for young people as they grapple with progression to adulthood in a turbulent multicultural environment.


The criminal aspects of gang membership may be less important than such factors as identity construction, experiments with leadership and perseveration of knowledge about culture and history.

Differences were also found between the values of the older established gangs and those of the emergent gangs. Members of the older gangs based their gang structure on traditional culture and values; they saw their membership as part of a tribe rather than a gang. Younger gangs were more focused on western attitudes and values.

The continuing importance of the family for gang members and the fact that members said family and friends were the most important thing about the gang points to the need to treat aboriginal youth within their family context, given that the gang can be so central to young people's lives.

Interventions therefore need to encompass the perspective of gang as family and therefore to promote it, not as a problem entirely, but as a family network.

The implications for youth justice policies and programs are clear – supporting local elders and younger adult mentors to guide young people into positive activities for gangs to undertake will be more fruitful than directing energies at costly incarceration and management of recidivism.

To access the full report, please visit: www.aic.gov.au.

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