What does a conversation about preventing child sexual abuse sound like? As we start to talk more about shifting our focus from a criminal justice perspective about how to treat sexual offenders to the need for prevention interventions, I think it’s helpful for readers to get a sense of what questions we face when we talk about this paradigm shift. I pulled some of our most powerful quotes from 2014 media interviews to demonstrate how we answer some of the most pressing questions.
How do we change the conversation about preventing child sexual abuse?
“The idea that all sex offenders are monsters, and monsters are unpredictable, draws resources and political attention away from effective prevention efforts. We spend far more to address sex crimes after they happen.” Dr. Letourneau in “We Need to Make it Easier for Pedophiles to Seek Help.” Time, Op Ed. October 2014
What does the public need to know about child sexual abuse prevention that they don’t?
“We don’t have prevention programs that target adolescents at risk of sexually abusing children, even though they account for more than 50 percent of cases. All the emphasis is on after-the fact policies. We must treat victims. We must detect and stop offenders. But if we really want to reduce harm, we need a stronger culture of avoiding the problem to begin with.” Dr. Letourneau in “We Need to Make it Easier for Pedophiles to Seek Help.” Time, Op Ed. October 2014
What keeps you up at night?
“We say we’re really concerned about sex offending and we really don’t want children to be sexually abused and we don’t want adults to be raped, but we don’t do anything to prevent it. We put most of our energy into criminal justice, which means that the offense has already happened and often many offenses have already happened.” Dr. Letourneau in “You’re Sixteen, You’re a Pedophile, You Don’t Want to Hurt Anyone, What Do You Do?” Matter Magazine. August 2014
What misunderstanding do we need to remove from the dialogue about child sexual abuse?
“The misconception is that youth who commit sex offenses are mini-adult offenders, that once a sex offender always a sex offender. The way we think about it in terms of a national dialogue, is that in applying harsh, restrictive, punitive, adult policies to kids, we’re sort of stopping future sex offending, sort of nipping it in the bud. But that doesn’t stand up to the empirical research that’s being done.” Dr. Shields in “Studies, Experts Question Effect of Placing Children on Sex Offender Registries.” The Youth Project. December 2014