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Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Date: Aug 2016

USA GymnasticsRecent coverage (see Indianapolis Star, Washington Post and National Public Radio) of child sexual abuse allegations within USA Gymnastics and their policy of systematically disregarding accusations from bystanders, during which time numerous young gymnasts were abused by multiple coaches over the course of decades, is a sobering reminder that institutions too often fail in their responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse. This investigation should motivate other youth-serving organizations to adopt and maintain best practices that can prevent the sexual abuse of children. Indeed, how organizations respond to the first allegation can set the stage for whether child sexual abuse is prevented or promoted.

This is a lesson that every organization should have learned after the 2012 Penn State child sexual abuse scandal. Yes, we know that it’s very hard for people to respond to allegations of child sexual abuse when the offender is someone who is well known and respected in their community, but failing to do so creates an environment that places children at risk. This is why it is essential for youth-serving organizations to implement and enforce best practices for protecting children.

For example, mandatory reporting policies require that if you’re employed by an organization that serves children, you have a duty to report any and all cases of suspected child sexual abuse to authorities. Since USA Gymnastics is considered a youth-serving organization, their policy that child sexual abuse allegations are dismissed as hearsay if reported by someone other than a victim or parent clearly violates this responsibility.  

Right now, most sex crime policies in the United States focus on punishing the perpetrators after the fact. But there is much more we could do to study and test programs and policies for preventing abuse in the first place. In the meantime, organizations must place the wellbeing of children above organizational prestige and adopt best practices that we know can help keep our children safe.

Karen BakerIn April 2016, we welcomed Ms. Karen Baker to our Scientific Advisory Board, a group comprised of experts in the field of sexual abuse prevention that helps lead the direction of research at the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse. Ms. Baker currently serves as director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. She is also a member of the board and co-chair of the Prevention Committee for the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers and is past president of the National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation.  

Ms. Baker has many years of experience working in the field of sexual violence and abuse prevention. As director of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, she provides leadership in preventing and responding to sexual violence, shares research findings and collaborates with partner organizations. In this role, she is committed to ensuring that all people are treated with respect and dignity and have access to excellent resources. Ms. Baker regularly collaborates with social justice advocates, funders, researchers, media, policymakers and corporate leaders to strategically focus on changing the conditions that foster sexual violence­ a – problem she believes is entirely preventable. 

“I’m delighted to join the Moore Center’s Scientific Advisory Board and look forward to helping guide research and identify opportunities for collaborating with prevention-minded organizations and individuals to further the Center's work on child sexual abuse prevention,” says Ms. Baker.

She will be joining our eight-member Scientific Advisory Board, who not only directs research, but also identifies knowledge gags and prioritizes areas where Center resources can achieve the greatest public impact. We are thrilled to have her join our team. Read more about our board members here.