Sexual abuse in juvenile detention

Dr Christopher Lennings1, Ms  Megan Godbee1

1Lscpsychology, World Square, Australia


Juvenile Justice represents a closed system in which accountability is limited. The recent Royal Commission into Sexual Abuse has identified a number of concerning complaints of staff abusing young people in detention. The current paper identifies themes and and issues that apply to why sexual abuse is tolerated in such institutions, the role young people adopt as victims in such systems and the cognitive distortions that exist in both victims and perpetrators of such abuse. The context of institutional apathy towards identifying and remedying organizational culture problems that allow such abuse to occur is also analyzed. The paper identifies case studies that illustrate the issues discussed in the theoretical analysis of the problem.


Christopher J. Lennings is a clinical and forensic psychologist. He holds an Adjunct appointment with Charles Sturt University (Australian Graduate School of Policing and Law Enforcement). He has previous academic positions as Senior Lecturer in Psychology for Queensland University of Technology, University of Sydney (Behavioural Health Sciences) and Australian College of Applied Psychology. His chief areas of research and clinical interest include risk assessment in civil and criminal matters, the treatment and assessment of substance abuse, violent and sexually violent offenders, child protection and parenting assessments, domestic violence assessments in immigration contexts, and the interface of psychology and the law. He has presented his work nationally and internationally in conferences and workshops. He has published extensively in Australian and International Journals and was a past editor for the Journal of Applied Health Behaviour and founding editor of Sexual Abuse in Australia and New Zealand. He is a reviewer for several Australian and international journals. He has presented more than 60 workshops across his professional career and published more than 100 papers in peer reviewed journals as well as several book chapters and monographs. He is a Fellow of the Clinical and Forensic Colleges of the Australian Psychology Society, a member of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology and the Law, and a Member of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Treatment of Sex Abusers. He was awarded the NSW Forensic College award for Research Excellence in 2008. He has been a representative to, and sat on panels and boards of numerous community organisations. In 2013 he was awarded an OAM for his services to psychology and the community and in 2014 made a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society.

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