Child sexual abuse is preventable

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The problem is clear: Sexual abuse of children is much too common. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys experience child sexual abuse at some point in childhood.  The solution is also clear: we must invest in strategies to prevent child sexual abuse.

Yet our nation’s investments have focused primarily on how to respond after child sexual violence has taken place.  Elizabeth Letourneau wrote that “[a] successful national approach would comprehensively address all child sexual abuse by emphasizing primary prevention as well as treatment and accountability” in her September 2019 article We spend billions after child sexual abuse happens and nothing to prevent it.  Letourneau and colleagues have done valuable work documenting a cost of $9.3 billion in 2015 for child sexual abuse in this country. And that is likely an undercount.

Subsequently Congress added an $1 million appropriation in Fiscal Year 2019 to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address the prevention of child sexual abuse.  In the short document Child Sexual Abuse is Preventable and in a longer report to Congress on child sexual abuse prevention CDC recommends the following areas in which research in preventing child sexual abuse is needed:

  • Improve surveillance systems and data collection
  • Increase understanding of risk and protective factor
  • Strengthen and develop evidence-based policies, programs, and practices
  • Disseminate and implement evidence-based policies, programs, and practices

Aligned with those recommendations, CALCASA’s national project PreventConnect has shared the policies, programs and practices that are promising toward preventing child sexual abuse. In over 30 web conferences (from the #PowerInPrevention series funded by Ms. Foundation for Women in 2012-2015 to web conferences featuring the Just Beginnings Collaborative in 2019) we have featured the voices of those doing child sexual abuse prevention work in their communities.  You can see the materials and recordings of those web conferences in the list below.

Along with the new child sexual abuse prevention funding, there are other exciting new prevention efforts. The CDC Foundation recently announced that it is updating the valuable 2007 report Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-serving Organizations: Getting Started on Policies and Procedures.  PreventConnect developed an ELearning Model Considerations in Developing Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Policies in Youth-Serving Organizations that provide examples of child sexual abuse prevention policies from this report. In addition, PreventConnect works with the national organization RALIANCE to support its prevention work. Check out RALIANCE Sport + Prevention Center and Parent 2 Parent resource pages for more examples of child sexual abuse prevention in action.

PreventConnect will continue to amplify the voices for child sexual violence prevention. Please share with us what you are doing to build a society where no child is sexually abused.

Here is a comprehensive list of PreventConnect web conferences on child sexual abuse

2018-2019

2017-2018

2016-2017

2014-2015

2013-2014

2012-2013

 

David Lee

David S. Lee, MPH, is the Director of Prevention Services at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) where he provides training and technical assistance on prevention. David manages the national project Prevention Connection, an online community of violence against women prevention practitioners, funders, researchers and activists. For over 29 years David has worked in efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

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