Operational policing and child abuse: Examining the impact of feminism, exploring the application of intersectionality

Ineke Romeyn, Philip Birch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – This paper aims to examine operational policing practice and child abuse. The paper acknowledges the influence second-wave feminism has had on police practice in terms of recognising and addressing this crime type. However, child abuse is mostly considered within the context of a single incident, with those children who suffer repeat and poly-victimisation being overlooked. As a consequence, the application of intersectionality as a theoretical framework to underpin practice is considered.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper adopts a case study approach. By doing so, an examination
of operational policing practice with regard to child abuse takes place.
Findings – Feminism, as a theoretical framework, for informing practice has its limitations, in particular with regard to operational policing practice. This is illustrated through the crime type of child abuse. With the onset of work by scholars such as Finkelhor, the importance of recognising and dealing with those who suffer from
repeat and multiple forms of victimisation has become apparent. As a consequence, the policing of repeat and poly-victimisation of child sexual abuse victims needs to be enhanced. Intersectionality is considered as being a theoretical framework that can inform police practice in this area of work. Practical implications – The implications for practice are, namely, intersectionality has an important role to play in informing an understanding of child abuse. Intersectionality is an appropriate framework for the
police to use to enhance their response to child abuse as the cornerstone of both Intersectionality and police practice is to redress unjust treatment. A targeted and consistent approach by police, education, health and community services to prevent child abuse informed by intersectionality. Building on the success of a number of police-led initiatives designed to address child abuse.
Originality/value – Much that is written about child abuse is typically done so through the lens of social work. This piece provides a timely reminder of the importance of policing in the prevention, disruption and reduction of this crime type. Further to this, the paper takes a novel approach by applying intersectionality not only as a means of understanding and addressing child abuse but as a means of informing police practice in dealing with the crime
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-136
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice
Issue number2
Early online date09 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2021


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