Why is there a need for a Child Abuse Observatory? Over the past thirty years, many efforts have been made by various people and institutions in relation to child abuse. These efforts concern the theoretical aspects of the abuse (understanding its causes and evaluating its effects in their multiple aspects) as well as practical issues related to management of perpetrators, care of victims, and the environments for abuse (the family and institutions). Professionals from very diverse fields (medical, legal, social, psychological, academic, educational) are called to intervene in these situations or are involved in theoretical reflection on child abuse. All agree that the actions undertaken (both practical and theoretical) should be coordinated within the framework of an interdisciplinary approach.
However, we find that for many reasons, exchange of ideas and experience between the various professionals is unsatisfactory. In the field, they often meet only in specific situations that require an urgent intervention. Others, with different backgrounds, contribute series of papers to conferences on abuse, without really engaging in interdisciplinary reflection with a critical perspective. In addition, professionals in the field have little opportunity to benefit from the theoretical contributions of researchers, who in return have little knowledge of the concerns and difficulties which arise in practice in the field.
The Observatory’s mission is to create the conditions enabling professionals in the various fields related to child abuse to come together and create mutual enrichment. The aim is to give the opportunity to these professionals, from the field and from research, to meet and engage constructively in interdisciplinary debate. This should lead to discourse and an emerging body of knowledge that will be both dynamic and useful to everyone. Moreover, this shared reflection should bring to light new research questions which, in the long term, should lead to a better response to the needs of those directly affected by abuse: victims, families and perpetrators.
The Observatory’s position as part of the university guarantees its independence and, thereby, provides the essential conditions for critical debate between professionals from different fields and institutions.
It should be noted that the Observatory does not provide direct services (therapeutic or other) to the victims or perpetrators of abuse.