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By on January 4, 2023

Organizations, USA Football Collaborate to Study Effectiveness of Adult-Focused Prevention Programs

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has awarded The Center for Violence Prevention Research (CVPR) $1.8 million to study the effectiveness of prevention programs aimed at adults involved in Youth Sports Leagues. 

CVPR is planning to conduct a five-year study on Circles of Safety®, a child abuse prevention program that offers education and support to adults, in order to prevent child sexual abuse. By collaborating with the authoring organization, Stop it Now! and USA Football, CVPR plans to implement the adult-focused prevention program with volunteer coaches and league leadership in USA Football Leagues across the United States. 

Stop It Now! designed Circles of Safety® to provide adults with foundational training and tools to lead systemic shifts in their communities, in order to create safer environments for both children and adults. Circles of Safety® emphasizes adults’ roles and responsibilities in protecting children from sexual harm and abuse, as well as teaching them protective and empowering behaviors around boundaries and relationships. 

Circles of Safety® can be implemented in any environment where adults work with children in a supervisory or mentor space and has been implemented across the country for more than 10 years and coordinators have trained more than 100,000 adults across disciplines. 

With their existing partnership with USA Football, Stop it Now! and CVPR will engage at least 30 youth football leagues to implement and evaluate the effectiveness of the program.

“Seeing how USA Football has embraced the importance of addressing sexual safety and wellbeing in it’s leagues is inspirational,”  Jenny Coleman, Director of Stop it Now said. “While we want to avoid stereotyping, we hope that this program will encourage conversations between adults that may not normally talk about child sexual abuse prevention and that these conversations extend into the families of the children in the leagues, and into the community. 

By participating in Circles of Safety®, volunteer coaches and league leadership will develop their understanding of child sexual abuse prevention, common language, theory and framework to describe risk and protective factors, develop skills, comfort and confidence to engage in challenging conversations and support whole-systems change. Stop it Now! Is in its 2nd year of partnership with USA Football and has provided training and resources to all of their league coaches, as well as served as reviewers and partners with sports leagues in the past. 

Coleman said Stop it Now! will continue its already close partnership with USA Football and CVPR throughout the study, including USA Football coaches and staff in their advisory groups, focus groups and overall planning. 

The Center for Violence Prevention Research, which specializes in designing and evaluating prevention programs for women and children who experience or are at risk for experiencing violence, will conduct the evaluation on the program. In a press release issued in December, 2022, CVPR President and lead researcher on the project, Melissa Bright, PhD, said studying if and how educating adults can protect children from child sexual abuse is an incredible research opportunity. 

The CDC outlines Engaging Influential Adults and Peers as an effective approach in preventing violence in its publication Preventing Intimate Partner Violence Across the Lifespan. In a brief about violence prevention strategies, authors note that “trusted adults and peers are important influencers of what adolescents and young adults think and expect and how they behave.”

All data generated from the study will be used to add to existing evidence around how adult-focused prevention programs can prevent child sexual abuse and trauma. 

You can read the full press release on the project here