Organised Abuse in Adulthood: Towards a Cooperative Interagency Response

This session will present the findings of an Australian interview study with women disclosing organised abuse in adulthood and the mental health professionals who support them. Organised abuse refers to the sexual abuse of multiple children by multiple perpetrators acting in a coordinated way, and is reported by a significant minority of clients in dissociative disorder clinics. It is not unusual for adults disclosing organised abuse to indicate that abuse continued into adulthood, and may be ongoing at the time of treatment. This seminar draws from the experiences of professionals and clients in their efforts to understand, manage and end organised abuse in adulthood. Eschewing simple dichotomies of ‘real’ and ‘imagined’ abuse, the paper acknowledges that dissociative symptoms and traumatic attachments can be manipulated by perpetrators to coerce vulnerable people into organised abuse. The reflections of survivors and professionals suggest that the cooperation of multiple agencies can support the physical and psychological safety of the survivor (and their children), enhancing the efficacy of therapeutic work. However a lack of shared understanding and training amongst responding professionals and services can result in the premature dismissal of reports of adult organised abuse, the stigmatisation of victims, and retraumatising or potentially harmful interventions. The paper concludes with some thoughts on the implications of adult organised abuse for practice and policy.

Target Audience


Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this session participants will be able to:
  • Recognise the dynamics of organised abuse in adulthood
  • Describe barriers to cooperative interagency responses to adult organised abuse
  • Identify useful strategies and opportunities to improve outcomes for adults experiencing organised abuse
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 1.00 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.00 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.
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Presenter: Michael Salter, PhD
Presenter Bio: Dr Michael Salter is a senior lecturer in criminology at Western Sydney University, Australia. He is the author of the book Organised Sexual Abuse (Routledge, 2013) as well as numerous papers and book chapters on organised abuse, child abuse and violence against women. Dr Salter sits on the ISSTD Scientific Advisory Committee and is currently Chair Elect of the Ritual Abuse Mind Control and Organised Abuse Special Interest Group. He speaks nationally and internationally on the subject of organised abuse and sexual exploitation, and he is the lead investigator on the research project “Constructions of complex trauma and implications for women’s wellbeing and safety from violence”.

Available Credit

  • 1.00 ISSTD Certificate Program
    This program is eligible for 1.00 credits in the ISSTD Certificate Program.


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