Last 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.