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Fatal Remedies: Child Sexual Abuse and Education Policy in Liberia

Hanson-DeFusco, Jessica (2020) Fatal Remedies: Child Sexual Abuse and Education Policy in Liberia. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

An unintended consequence of international education policy is the misunderstanding of the relation between child sexual abuse and the schooling of girls. Development research indicates that education is associated with decreased rates of early childhood marriage. Yet education also exposes female pupils to sexual violence within schools. International agencies and national governments are often unaware that the very policy of putting young girls in the classroom may also expose them to various forms of child sexual abuse. The relation between schooling and sexual violence has not been well established in development research. The field research reported in this dissertation addresses this deficiency in the literature by examining the joint effects of education and the safety of the school environment on female child sexual abuse. Applying a mixed-methods approach, the study analyses results of a 2018 field-study using a stratified-cluster sample of 715 young Liberian women and 493 of their parents. A key finding of the study is the unintended consequence that sending girls to school is linked to nearly 35 percent of students being statutorily raped. While most child rape offenders work outside of the educational setting, approximately 38 percent of abuse cases involve teachers, staff, and adult students. The analysis further examines how the relation between education and child sexual abuse is affected by factors including the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of parents. Conclusively, the combination of higher educational achievement (e.g. university, advanced polytechnic schools) and safer learning environments significantly reduces abuse risks. For instance, a girl’s odds of being raped are nearly three times less if she has tertiary education versus primary schooling (phi=0.24, p=0.01). Additionally, a small increase in school safety level reduces her risk of being raped by about 10 percent (p=0.001). Statistical findings were interpreted in light of sixteen key informant interviews, which helped explore causal mechanisms and potential policy solutions. The ethical and policy-relevant ramifications of this research expose a fatal remedy: Policymakers are urging girls to enter the classroom at higher rates, yet without fully understanding how to ensure their protection and facilitate their human agency.


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Details

Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
Creators/Authors:
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Hanson-DeFusco, Jessicajeh185@pitt.edujeh1850000-0002-1265-8403
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDunn, Williamdunn@pitt.edudunn
Committee MemberPicard, Louispicard@pitt.edupicard
Committee MemberNelson, Paulpjnelson@pitt.edupjnelson
Committee MemberMcClure, Maureenmmcclure@pitt.edu
Date: 25 June 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 3 March 2020
Approval Date: 25 June 2020
Submission Date: 21 April 2020
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 286
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Graduate School of Public and International Affairs > Public and International Affairs
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Liberia, child sexual abuse, education, equity, human security, human rights, policy
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2020 14:05
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2020 14:05
URI: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/id/eprint/38790

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