By Dr. Rebecca Fix
ATSA’s 36th Annual Research and Treatment Conference was held last month in Kansas City, MO. This year’s theme was Creating Balance. The theme emphasizes the need for the field of child sexual abuse intervention to strive toward equilibrium, as researchers and clinicians in the field may have competing interests. ATSA believes that by grounding ourselves in evidence-based research and treatment practices, we can strengthen our field while extending the scope of our work, thus creating balance.
The following are five main takeaways from the 2017 ATSA conference. I hope you find these takeaways inspiring and thought-provoking as you attend your next conference, prepare for your next client, develop your next research project idea, or just think about child sexual abuse.
1) The importance of language. While the field of psychology as a whole recognizes the importance of using person-first language, certain specialty fields within psychology are lagging behind in comprehensive adoption of such practices. In Nicole Pittman’s plenary session, she made a clearly reasoned call for the use of person-first language with children involved in juvenile justice. For example, instead of saying “juvenile offender”, “youth with harmful sexual behaviors” is preferable.
2) The utility of social media. Not only do ATSA members care about technology as it relates to child sexual abuse (e.g., via sexting, pornography exposure and access), we are moving toward greater social media usage. This allows us to better disseminate information to the general public as well.
3) National movements impact professional organizations. Even highly specialized professional organizations like ATSA have been impacted by movements like #BlackLivesMatter. We held a breakthrough forum on how to increase representation at ATSA and to reduce disparities in our field.
4) Multidisciplinary collaboration is key. To change policies, we need voices from many backgrounds. Researchers, attorneys, clinicians, probation officers and advocates were among the many professionals who came together to discuss policy change, especially eliminating juvenile sex offender registration and notification.
5) Movement toward child sexual abuse prevention. For far too long, the field of research on child sexual abuse has focused on after-the-fact interventions for survivors of child sexual abuse and individuals who have sexually abused. While the focus on prevention began in 2010, preventative efforts are still new to the field and are being promoted with greater intensity than ever before.