Panic or Placebo? Enterprise in the Construction of Risk and Fear of the Child Sexual Offender

  • Andy Williams
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Risk, Crime and Society book series (PSRCS)


This chapter examines the issue of media and social constructions of sexual offending and how these constructions feed numerous discourses on crime, fear and risk. It will consider these themes through the lens of what has been labelled ‘cyber-activism’ (McCaughey and Ayers, Cyberactivism: Online Activism in Theory and Practice. New York: Routledge, 2003). It critically explores media and societal framing of sexual offending by providing a historical overview of the paedophile ‘panic’, including how the various representations of sexual offending have created public fear over these harmful crimes. Using cases such as the murder of Sarah Payne, the News of the World’s ‘For Sarah’ campaign and the Paulsgrove demonstrations, it shows how shaming practices within the media have influenced criminal justice policy regarding how offenders are punished and managed within local communities. Finally, the chapter examines new forms of media and shaming practices by looking at child sex offender online activist groups. In doing so, it explores the ways that social networking sites and the internet have changed shaming practices and placed the power to shame back in the hands of public.


Fear of crime Risk Sexual offending 


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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andy Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK

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