The Primary Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Preventative Policy Choices

There are many organizations that make policy recommendations, and many analysis that are very comprehensive, but difficult to read.

While the policy changes are mostly applicable to the United States, the underlying principles are universally relevant.

Mandatory Reporting Laws

Note that this section is not applicable to individual situations and is strictly policy recommendation, and if you are aware of abuse that is occurring, visit reporting allegations to law enforcement. As mandatory reporting is still the law in many places, you must observe it if it applies in your area.

Mandatory reporting of individuals is often lauded by some victims and anti-abuser organizations, but mandatory reporting alongside draconian laws and punishments can seriously hamper the ability to hold abusers accountable because it fails to take the facts of how abuse happens into account. Because around 93% of abuse and 86% of sexual assault are perpetrated by people the victim knows, trusts, and cares about, there is less incentive for an abuser or victim to seek therapy, for fear of ruining the perpetrator’s life. There is also significant fear among at-risk individuals that seeking therapy for thoughts related to sexually hurting someone could end up with a police investigation, charges, or being outed in the community as a “sexual predator.” These factors hold true on an individual basis, not an institutional level.

Because Prevention Project Dunkelfeld and Help Wanted have clearly demonstrated the need for removing mandatory reporting laws applicable to individuals and therapists, and the success in treating people when these laws are absent, it is the suggestion of this site that said laws need to be repealed wherever they are present so that both victims and abusers can get the proper therapy they need. This does not hold true for institutions like schools, sports programs, and churches, and mandatory reporting should remain in place for these institutions.

Things we need less...

Carceral "Solutions"

Despite their popularity, putting someone in a cage does nothing to reform or rehabilitate people. The last place people want to see their loved one is sitting in a cage, and the reality is, most people who sexually abuse children is someone that child knows and cares about. Carceral reactions only serve to deter victim/survivors from reporting. When most sex crime is perpetrated by those with no criminal history, using criminal history to predict future behavior becomes meaningless and cruel.

Registries

While lists and registries may seem to make sense, they are merely a tool to shame someone and ostracize them from society. This only serves to heighten the very risk factors that could lead to a sex crime while putting them at risk for vigilantism and harassment. They must be abolished and the money spent on more effective solutions.

Residency Restrictions

Not only does social proximity matter more in sex crimes than physical proximity, residency restrictions affect everyone around someone who commits a sex crime. When we restrict where people can live, we also restrict their opportunities to remain law-abiding, productive members of the community.

In some cases, this harms the children we seek to protect by ostracizing them both from their peers and from potential opportunities to thrive. Since 35-50% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by juveniles, residency restrictions mean someone is punished for a youthful mistake.

Misinformation

On the topic of sexual harm, many policymakers are misinformed by cultural stereotypes and myths rather than sound research and facts. Many intentionally ignore science in favor for what is popular.

Every level of American culture is full of people who believe they know what victim/survivors of child sexual abuse and other sex crimes want: Harsh penalties for their abuser. However, most simply want the abuse to stop.

Things we need more...

Restorative Justice

Restorative justice is essentially a social-service based idea of fixing harms to the community within the community by giving victims of crime the opportunity to safely discuss what happened with the perpetrator. The essential concept is, through a series of community conversations between affected people, teach someone how their behavior affected others and give them better coping tools for what caused their choices in the future, whether via therapy or support services.

Social Services

Social services are things like education, employment assistance, mental health resources, support groups, safe consumption sites, social workers, and funding into strong communities with good, meaningful opportunities for people. They are far more effective at preventing crime than reacting to it with modern day policing.

Educating Families

Some funding originally directed at sex offender registration in the past must be directed to educating families about appropriate safety plans, facts around child sexual abuse and sexual assault, warning behaviors in potential abusers, resources for individualized help on a variety of topics, and normative vs. atypical sexual behavior in children and teenagers. This education plan would be created using accurate terminology, research-based factoids, and produced by experts in these areas.

Sex education is too often limited to the biology of sex. Young people need more preparation for healthy relationships, dealing with peer pressure, negotiating personal boundaries, and seeking help from caring adults: Lessons they need to hear multiple times at home, in schools, and from community members. These lessons can be learned and taught via books, educational presentations, ordinary every-day conversations, school programming, etc. These lessons cannot come from only one source, and any messages taught in schools should supplement, not replace, what is being taught at home and in the community.