"It Seems Clients And I Are on Different Planets": An Institutional Ethnography of Social Workers Managing Adolescent Girls Engaging in Consensual Sex
Wan-Juo Cheng(Department of Guidance and Counseling, National Changhua University of Education)、Tsen-Yung Wang(Graduate Institute of Social Work, National Chengchi University)
Adolescent sexual activity with consent is legally considered sexual assault in Taiwan. According to the law, social workers deliver self-protection services to the teenage girls as “victims of sexual assault” with the goal of preventing the clients from re-victimization. However, they often experience clients’ resistance to self-protection services and then attribute their failures to professional deficiency. This study adopts institutional ethnography, i.e. taking everyday practice of the social workers to examine how the institutional definitions of sexual assault create difficulty between the social workers and their clients, and further it explicates not only the ruling relations that dominate local practice but also the power relations embedded in the self-protection services. The results indicate that reluctance of the clients may be viewed as a confrontation with the institutional logic of gendered categories and governance of teen sex, as defined in legal texts. The social workers have to follow through with institutional norms and complete the institutional requirements of providing “protection”. All the above intensifies the inimical relationship between the social workers and the clients. The social workers have been confined to a role that is an expanded reproduction of social power, and inevitably attempt “sexual regulation” of the clients. So in effect the self-protection services that intend to empower the clients have deepened their marginalization; ironically, their work has become merely a means for the social workers to protect their job security and professional dignity. Implications of this research for professional practice include granting the social workers more discretionary power and shifting the focus of the professional services to sexuality awareness and relationship management.
consensual sex, sexual assault, self-protection, adolescent girls, youth protection social worker, institutional ethnography