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Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Keyword: atsa

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.

In November 2016, Moore Center staff attended the 35th Annual Research and Treatment Conference sponsored by the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) in Orlando. The focus this year was “Different Roles, Same Goals: Preventing Sexual Abuse.”

The Moore Center research team presented current projects to researchers, scholars, treatment providers, advocates and other ATSA members. Below is a quick recap of those presentations:

Moving the Field: Developments in the Assessment, Treatment, and Prevention of Sexual Abuse by R. Karl Hanson, Mark E. Oliver and Elizabeth J. Letourneau

  • Speakers presented the argument that child sexual abuse is a preventable public health problem and maintained that focusing on prevention of youth-perpetrated sexual harm is a worthwhile and feasible endeavor.

Help Wanted Project: Addressing Needs of Adolescents Sexually Attracted to Children by Ryan T. Shields and Amanda Ruzicka

  • Speakers presented a general description of the interview subjects (individuals with a sexual interest in children, but who have not acted on their attraction) and common themes.
  • Subjects reported attempting to seek help but were unable to find any.
  • They also reported that their main struggle was not refraining from acting on their attraction, but rather with figuring out how to cope with such an attraction and how to live a happy and healthy life.

Impact of Sex Crime Policies on Youth and Their Families by Geoffrey Kahn and Cierra Buckman

  • Key findings from this study include that youth who are required to register as sex offenders are four times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past 30 days and are three times more likely to be approached by an adult for sex than youth who do not have to register. 
  • Caregivers of youth who are required to register experience an increased average number of negative consequences than those who are not required to register. 

ATSA’s mission is dedicated to preventing sexual abuse through research, education and shared learning and the effective management of individuals who have sexually abused or who are at risk of doing so. The annual conferences attract around 1400 attendees and have hundreds of speakers.