Since the 1980s, the fear of child sexual abuse (CSA) has become a major cultural feature of a large part of the Western world. Internationally, the unintended consequences of the fear surrounding CSA are rarely investigated and doing so is often controversial. The purpose of this study was to investigate how this widespread fear of CSA has influenced practices and teacher–child relationships at childcare institutions. This is the first study of Danish childcare facilities’ guidelines for protecting children against CSA, and staff against wrongful allegations of CSA. Examples of such guidelines include staff being forbidden to have children sit on their lap, or male staff being forbidden to change diapers. This mixed methods survey, which involved the participation of 2051 directors and teachers from approximately one-quarter of Danish childcare facilities, showed that the majority of institutions had guidelines that were aimed mostly at protecting staff from wrongful allegations. The study revealed that the guidelines were a sign that male workers were being stigmatized, and that some institutions had discriminatory guidelines that applied exclusively to men. Furthermore, the guidelines conflicted with staff’s trusting relationships with children, and the task of caring for them.
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