There are many ways to get involved in preventing child sexual abuse. Here are five areas you can explore:
One of the best ways of ensuring that prevention happens is to bring it to the attention of city, county, and state leaders. Many of them are driven primarily by what people express to them, as well as the interests of businesses and lobbyists, so the more you talk to them about prevention, the more they hear about it. Many of them are a jack-of-all-trades and are not experts in prevention, so telling them the facts and the research behind why prevention is effective can go a long way.
The best ways of contacting leaders is by using two old-fashioned modes of communication: A letter (with an envelope that you mail), and a phone call. Just one will not be effective. Sending a letter is an excellent first step, with a phone call to follow up being the best next step. Your aim is to get them interested, and let them know that you are a source of information and resources. You will want to contact them multiple times throughout the year, and beginning each letter or communication with “Honorable Representative/Mayor/Council Member/Administrator” is a great way to show your respect to their position and their time. Be brief, and stick to something that will only take a minute or two to read (you can use this tool to estimate that time).
You can also get plugged into local organizations, like coalitions against sexual assault (in the United States), rape crisis centers, conferences, and more.
Becoming an advocate is great way to get involved. The gap between the knowledge gained in research, and when the public knows that same knowledge, is typically years, even when the media publicizes research. All of this means that the average person only knows what they hear from word-of-mouth and from media reports, which is to say that their knowledge will usually be lacking. Having one more voice in the trenches to educate people about the facts can remedy some of those challenges.
There are many ways to become an advocate. There may be prevention programs in your area that already do advocacy, and you could volunteer your time. You can write letters to the editor in newspapers (yes, people still read those), or contact journalists or reporters. You can comment on articles you see online. You can post facts on social media, and link to resources people can use. You will want to limit the time you spend on advocacy, and only do advocacy work when you are prepared to handle criticism, so that you ensure that you are taking care of yourself.
As with most issues, you can donate money to organizations that already exist. Some of these organizations are non-profits, and while a donation to them may be tax deductible, it means these organizations cannot be as involved in legal and political issues, which can be a large hindrance to their ability to create legislative change. Some organizations are not tax deductible, which means that their focus is on changing the legal and political landscape.
As with any organization, do your research about what they represent and what kinds of facts and policies they push for. Some organizations only seek to educate and serve as a resource to the public, while other organizations specifically push for holding sex offenders more accountable. Use the information and facts on this site to test which organizations push facts, and which have good intentions, but did not look at effective policies.
Simply having some of the knowledge around how and why child sexual abuse happens, as well as the warning signs you can look for, is a great step towards prevention. Chances are, if you came to this page, you already know a fair share about the facts and warning signs, and since that knowledge has limited effectiveness unless you use it, it is suggested that you…
Speaking up is the logical next step to knowing facts and information about how child sexual abuse can be prevented. In conversation, on social media, in your community, when the issue of child sexual abuse comes up, speak up so that others can think more critically about this issue and so that the facts take precedence over word-of-mouth. If you are a parent, ask your child’s teachers and caregivers if they are familiar with abuse prevention methods and facts. If you are an educator, talk to your colleagues about the resources that are available if they get stressed out or want to know more about preventing and identifying concerning behaviors.
Secrecy is one of the biggest enablers of child sexual abuse, and speaking up breaks that secrecy. When you speak up about these issues in your community, or online, you are chipping away at the secrecy that allows sexual abuse to happen. So, break that secrecy by speaking up in whatever capacity you can!