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Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Dr. Letourneau and Fr. RosicaOn October 4, 2017, Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau gave a talk at the World Congress for Child Dignity in the Digital World, a conference that brought together leaders and researchers from around the world to discuss the dangers of children becoming victims of online sexual abuse and bullying. The conference took place in Vatican City and was convened by the Child Protection Centre at the Pontifical Gregorian University. (Featured at left: Dr. Letourneau and Fr. Thomas Rosica.)

Dr. Letourneau’s talk was one of the few that introduced the idea of prevention and the importance of viewing child sexual abuse as a public health issue. She also discussed how most of our efforts in the U.S. go toward detection and punishment.

Minimum sentencing, sex offender registration and living restrictions are all policies that have been implemented after harm has already been done. None of these costly policies prevent child sexual abuse.

Another important concept that Dr. Letourneau covered was the idea that as long as we view people who sexually abuse children as monsters, we are going to overlook the people in our children’s lives that we would never suspect: coaches, priests, teachers and family friends are more likely to sexually abuse our children than strangers. We wrongly believe that people that hurt children are on a trajectory toward more offending and greater harm, when in fact, once caught, people who commit sex offences have very low risk of committing other sex offenses.

Watch Dr. Letourneau’s talk here.

Headlines about child sexual abuse prevention, research and policy from around the country

World Congress Child Dignity

Last week Dr. Letourneau, along with other researchers in the field of child sexual abuse prevention, attended this event held in Vatican City and convened by the Gregorian University's Center for Child Protection.

Dallas County’s Sex Offender Program is Letting Teens Down

State watchdog group issues report that details horrific negligence in the Dallas County Juvenile Department.

Halloween sex offender hysteria is starting early this year (see the long list of’s sex offender maps)

  • Moore Prevention News: The Biggest Danger to Kids on Halloween is Drivers, not Sex Offenders.  Dr. Letourneau’s study looked at whether more sex offenses occur on Halloween night. The study found that there is no significant risk for child sexual abuse. The greatest risk to children on Halloween night is getting hurt by drivers who may not be able to see them in the dark.

Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry Needs Reform

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the state cannot apply the sex offender registry laws to people retroactively. Michigan will have to revise the registry.

California Sex Offender Registry Laws to Change

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that could purge 90 percent of the names off the state’s lifetime registry for sex offenders.

Colorado Lawmakers May Change Sex Offender Registry 

Lawmakers are reconsidering the fairness of the state’s sex offender laws

Rebecca Fix

In her role, Dr. Rebecca Fix will be conducting research on child sexual abuse prevention, specifically around juvenile registration, and studying the discrepancies that exist in the juvenile justice system that adversely affect at-risk racial/ethnic minority populations. Before joining the Moore Center, Rebecca was a clinical psychology resident at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“I joined the Moore Center so I could have the opportunity to conduct more extensive research that will hopefully inform policies that concern children with problem sexual behaviors and evaluate intervention programs designed to prevent child sexual and physical abuse,” says Rebecca.

Rebecca, who hails from Milwaukee, earned a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a master’s in clinical psychology from West Virginia University and a PhD in clinical psychology from Auburn University.

Rebecca likes to recharge by hiking, dancing, running, playing video games, playing board games (e.g., Carcassonne and Agricola) and painting. Her reading recommendations include The Perversion of Youth by Frank C. Dicataldo and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

TEDMEDLast November Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau, director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse and professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, gave one of the most important talks of her life: A TEDMED talk about preventing child sexual abuse.

The talk weaves her experiences as a seasoned researcher who was surprised to learn that there were young adults attracted to children who made a decision to never offend against a child. A reporter named Luke Malone introduced her to this concept, and his reporting became a This American Life episode. From there, interest in this topic ballooned and eventually Letourneau was invited to share her story with the TEDMED audience and now that her talk has been released, she can share it everyone.

In Elizabeth’s blog on the TEDMED website, she writes that most cases of child sexual abuse (80%) occur in someone’s home, while 20% of cases occur in institutions such as schools, religious facilities, camps, foster care and other youth-serving settings. She also notes that half of all cases of child sexual abuse are caused by other children and adolescents. When asked, most children who have offended admit they didn’t know that their behavior was wrong, or they acted impulsively or acted out their own abuse. All of these factors practically demand that effective prevention programs and policies be implemented to protect all children from this preventable abuse.

We recently posted a column in Psychology Today that urges readers to help us get one million people to watch Elizabeth’s talk. We must change the way people think about child sexual abuse and start believing that a public health approach can, and will, effectively prevent it. 


Bruce Taylor, PhD, senior fellow at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and co-developer of Shifting Boundaries speaks about youth intimate partner violence at the 2017 Child Sexual Abuse: A Public Health Perspective symposium at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Watch more videos from our symposium here.