TRISTAN'S MOON

Research/Ethics/Laws

And they have the audacity to call us the Hard-To-Reach.
The blue walls between us (after the artist known as Banksyny)



When we exclude at-risk male children and adolescents in situations of vulnerability from research, we fail to learn about them and thus, fail to develop new, better ways to approach, treat and protect them from neglect, abuse and exploitation.

As a result of government's protective stance, issues of autonomy, informed consent and confidentiality, the physical, psychological and social health and well-being of sexually abused and sexually exploited young males are understudied. And appropriate services - medical, social, legal - for survivors are underfunded by government agencies: "what gets measured gets done"

The lack of research and reporting also affects the quality of private donations that are gifted to support initiatives working to raise the quality of life for young male survivors: "If it were true that thousands of young males are being sexually abused and sexually exploited and do not have anywhere that is, in truth, safe to live, surely it would be all over the media."

But even if images of sexual violence experienced by males is placed on the front page of the New York Times, few people are educated to read the signs.







MANDATORY REPORTING LAWS/POLICIES


Mandatory reporting laws and/or policies that require individuals and professionals to report sexual violence cases, have led to a distinct lack research that advances knowledge of the true extent of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation experienced by young males. This is significant because without awareness or a sense of urgency fueled by adult-led communities, there is little hope that medical, trauma reduction programs, social or legal services for young male survivors will be created and appropriately funded to serve the survivors best interests.

Mandatory reporting laws and/or policies create dilemmas for collectors of information about sexual violence because they lead to potential conflict with key ethical principles, namely, respect for confidentiality, respect for autonomy and the need to protect chronically vulnerable young people from further trauma and abuse.

The dominant cultural focus on prosecution and punishment has led to a very distinct type of evidence being valued and assigned as 'truth.'  This legal concept of what is admissible in a court of law, has influenced the collection and protection of information associated with sensitive issues such as the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of young males.

Even medical researchers seeking to advance knowledge and services for young male survivors of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, are faced with a dilemma: how to collect the information and what to do with the data collected. Measures such as the destruction of all research information that would identify names and localities, is recommended (see, recent United Nations research initiative among Syrian refugees and World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations).

Creating "working conditions" for researchers that result in their research being challenged by the dominant scientific and legal philosophies and practices that demand a distinct type of evidence to be taken seriously and before any funding is released for appropriate medical, legal and social services for sexually abused and sexually exploited young males, is highly problematic. When a researcher chooses to destroy research material that identifies acutely vulnerable identities and localities, he/she is set up for a potential challenge. My word against your word type of interactions are confrontational engagements: vying to establish whose professional/cultural/social reputation and status trumps whose, and often employing strategies to humiliate and subjugate, dis-empower. 

It is critical that the rules of engagement for researchers working in highly sensitive arenas, do not compromise the safety of informants. To do so would be utter madness.





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