Caroline Yates


This study was to designed, in two parts, to investigate: 1. Whether the attributions about sexually abusive behaviour, made by staff in learning disabilities services, differed according to whether or not the perpetrator had a learning disability, and if these attributions served to hinder the identification, acknowledgement and reporting of sexually abusive behaviour performed by men with learning disabilities. 2. The number of clients referred to therapists in learning disabilities services, over a two year period, for sexually abusive behaviour, client and offence characteristics, and the referral process. Information was sought regarding therapists' perceived reasons for delayed referrals, and the impact this had on ease of treatment. A questionnaire employing vignettes was constructed to measure staff attributions, about offenders and their behaviour, on dimensions of impulsivity, level of understanding, sexual motivation, and the extent to which behaviour was influenced by the victim, and other personal and external factors. Results of the questionnaire were analysed using ANOVA. Significant differences in staff responses were found on all measures. Results suggest that peoples' perceptions of the perpetrator with a learning disability are less likely to invoke attributions of responsibility and blame and thus may serve to hinder the identification, acknowledgement and reporting of abusive behaviour. The results of the survey of therapists indicate that clients referred for sexually abusive behaviours share similar offence characteristics with offenders in the general population in terms of the range of behaviours exhibited, and multiple offending. These results also show that most referrals to therapists are delayed, and that the delay is . perceived to be due to staff not considering the behaviour to be 'primarily sexual' in nature, and 'excusing' the behaviour because of the individual's learning disability or 'other' personal characteristics. Links between the two parts of the study are drawn and these and other findings are discussed in relation to practice and implications for future research.

Document Type


Publication Date