Learning disability staff responses towards allegations of sexual abuse
Peckham (2007) has argued that people with learning disabilities are at a greater risk \ud of abuse than members of the general population however, no research has investigated paid \ud carers' responses to allegations of sexual abuse. The current research aimed to investigate: \ud factors affecting care staff responses in this situation, the relationship between attributions, \ud emotions and helping responses, and test predictions derived from Weiner's (1985; 1986) \ud cognitive-emotional model of attributions.\ud A vignette methodology was used. Sixty four residential services support staff (32 \ud females, 32 males) answered a questionnaire describing a scenario in which a service user \ud alleged they had been sexually abused. The characteristics of the person making the allegation \ud were varied across eight versions of the scenario according to gender, whether they were \ud known to be sexually active and if they had reported being abused before. Participants were \ud asked to describe what they thought the most likely cause (or causes) of the claimant's \ud behaviour was, and then made judgements on 7- point rating scales as to the cause of the \ud allegation, their own emotional response and their willingness to offer help.\ud The data was analysed using 4-way ANOVAs and correlational techniques. Important \ud results included: 1) the most common causal explanation given overall was that the claimant \ud had been sexually abused and absolute levels of willingness to provide help for the service \ud user were high across all situations; 2) all independent variables affected at least some part of \ud attributions, emotions or helping behaviour; 3) there was evidence for gender differences in \ud the treatment of sexual abuse allegations, with participant gender becoming a unexpected \ud fourth variable; 4) the analysis indicated support for Weiner's (1985; 1986) model with the \ud effects of willingness to help being mediated by emotions and optimism. Implications for \ud learning disability practice, attribution theory and vignette methodology are discussed.
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