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Investigating Fictional Representations of Child Sexual Abuse in Contemporary Culture: Myths and Understanding


Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a critical issue facing contemporary societies, and one which inspires many fictional representations in creative cultural works. Despite CSA's prevalence and potentially serious consequences, it remains relatively taboo and stakeholders refer to a societal 'flinch', or aversion, from engaging with the issue, which hinders survivors' wellbeing. This avoidant response seems to have been inadvertently replicated in literary and cultural studies, in which CSA as a theme is almost completely overlooked, meaning that its full cultural implications are currently unknown. The CSAReps project will address this by exploring the culturally significant but neglected body of works which depict CSA, examining not only their representational strategies but also their potential role in shaping people's understandings of CSA. The objectives are:
1. To analyse the themes, form and emotional cues in CSA fictions from key genres (crime, horror, young adult, popular general) in the culturally prevalent forms of literature, film and television, providing a foundational mapping of these representations and opening a new and long-overdue research horizon in literary and cultural studies.
2. To explore how CSA fiction may inform social attitudes by performing the first ever empirical investigation of audience responses to it (including the general public and CSA survivors). Identifying influence will be challenging, but could transform our understanding of how public views on abuse are formed, impacting disciplines like psychology and social work for which such knowledge is key.
3. To develop a new conceptual framework which interlinks thematic and empirical approaches to cultural scholarship to allow the mapping of CSA fictions to be related to the audience response findings, ultimately yielding a model suggesting the relationship between CSA fictions and their effects.
This transferrable framework will support explorations of abuse representations across cultures and media.


Net EU contribution
€ 1 500 000,00
4 Dublin

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Ireland Eastern and Midland Dublin
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00