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By on May 21, 2020

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Past, Present, Future.

Preventing child sexual abuse is crucial to creating healthier, safer communities and to preventing ACEs and their long-term health and social impacts. Emerging research in preventing child sexual abuse shows the lasting effectiveness of programs, and prevention practitioners explore new ways to prevent violence during the COVID-19 global pandemic and stay-at-home public health orders.

"Preventing sexual violence and child sexual abuse looks different right now, but prevention is possible and is working." Preventing child sexual abuse: past, present, futureResearch:Youth Prevention Programs

A recent study, College students’ recollections of childhood sexual abuse prevention programs and their potential impact on reduction of sexual victimization, surveys college students on their recollections of receiving child sexual abuse prevention information and programming and their experiences of sexual violence. The study finds that among college students who recalled participating in a child sexual abuse prevention program in their youth, self-reported rates of experiencing sexual violence before age 16 were almost half of self-reported rates of sexual violence from those who did not recall participating in a child sexual abuse prevention program. Survey participants identified their child sexual abuse prevention programs covering a wide array of topics and themes, such as: stranger danger, refusal and removing themselves from an unsafe situation, telling someone about unsafe touching, safe and unsafe touching, naming private parts, and good touch/bad touch.

It appears that most of the programs reported in the study focused on preventing victimization of child sexual abuse, leaving more prevention work and research to be done on how adults can prevent the perpetration of child sexual abuse by adults and other children. This is especially important today as sexual assault hotlines are seeing a spike in callers under the age of 18. Youth who are sheltering-in-place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus may be in unsafe homes or removed from supportive adults and peers in their schools, after school activities, and communities.

Community Prevention During a Pandemic

PreventConnect recently hosted web conferences exploring how sexual and intimate partner violence prevention continue during COVID-19 and stay-at-home public health orders. On “Let’s Connect: Preventing Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence During a Pandemic,” guests Alejandra Aguilar and Sarah Orton discussed at-home prevention strategies such as stress management activities or healthy communication education that can mitigate violence in the home. On “Preventing Violence in Our Homes: Meeting this moment with connection, care, and justice,” many presenters shared how they are connecting and adapting their community connection opportunities and supporting communities. Jenny Coleman of Stop It Now! shared resources and strategies to prevent child sexual abuse perpetration during COVID-19, including links and information to Stop It Now!’s hotline for people concerned about other’s or their owns actions, behaviors, or thoughts that could endanger youth.

Post Covid-19 Prevention

Prevention practitioners are also planning for prevention activities that can happen once stay-at-home orders are eventually lifted. PreventConnect will release a podcast soon exploring ways teachers and school administrators can create protective environments for youth in schools and how their online training module creates a foundation for preventing child sexual abuse in schools. Sign up for the PreventConnect newsletter to be alerted when the podcasts are published.

As people across the country adjust to a new normal during the novel coronavirus pandemic, one thing remains: violence was not, is not, and will not be normal and acceptable. Preventing sexual violence and child sexual abuse looks different right now, but prevention is possible and is working.

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