“We were there all alone”: Sexual abuse within the peer group in boarding schools in Israel – Retrospective perceptions of adult survivors

Ziv Aviram, Dafna Tener, Carmit Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Despite the extensive research on child sexual abuse and the alarming extent of the phenomenon among peers, certain perspectives are still missing. Objective: The current study aimed to explore the subjective experience of adult survivors of peer sexual abuse while in boarding school, which has rarely been explored. Participants and setting: The present study included 15 adults who were sexually abused by their peers while attending boarding school. Methods: The data were based on semi-structured in-depth interviews focused on the abuse story, disclosure, and the meaning of the boarding school context to the participants. The interviews were analyzed using the qualitative thematic analysis approach. Results: The findings characterized the boarding school as lacking parental figures, lacking rule and regulation enforcement, and staff who were not able to deal effectively with sexual abuse cases. The relationships within the peer group in the boarding school were characterized by intense, although unspoken, intimacy and sexuality. As part of the group's socialization, breaking the rules was encouraged, including in the sexual realm. Furthermore, the boarding school was perceived as a space that maintained conservative patriarchal social structures that encouraged traditional gender perceptions. Conclusions: The findings of the current study indicated the urgent need to advance both policy and practice in this area, for example, greater involvement of the boarding school staff in the lives of the adolescents and implementation of rules and regulations to create a safer climate for those who choose, or need, to live away from home.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106154
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Volume140
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Boarding school
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Peer sexual abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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