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Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Keyword: child sexual abuse prevention

Headlines about child sexual abuse prevention, research and policy from around the country

World Congress Child Dignity

Last week Dr. Letourneau, along with other researchers in the field of child sexual abuse prevention, attended this event held in Vatican City and convened by the Gregorian University's Center for Child Protection.

Dallas County’s Sex Offender Program is Letting Teens Down

State watchdog group issues report that details horrific negligence in the Dallas County Juvenile Department.

Halloween sex offender hysteria is starting early this year (see the long list of Patch.com’s sex offender maps)

  • Moore Prevention News: The Biggest Danger to Kids on Halloween is Drivers, not Sex Offenders.  Dr. Letourneau’s study looked at whether more sex offenses occur on Halloween night. The study found that there is no significant risk for child sexual abuse. The greatest risk to children on Halloween night is getting hurt by drivers who may not be able to see them in the dark.

Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry Needs Reform

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the state cannot apply the sex offender registry laws to people retroactively. Michigan will have to revise the registry.

California Sex Offender Registry Laws to Change

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that could purge 90 percent of the names off the state’s lifetime registry for sex offenders.

Colorado Lawmakers May Change Sex Offender Registry 

Lawmakers are reconsidering the fairness of the state’s sex offender laws

TEDMEDWhat if we changed the way we think about child sexual abuse, from inevitable to preventable?  

Earlier this spring we received incredible news: we’ve been invited to speak at this year’s TEDMED conference in Palm Springs, California this fall in front of an in-person audience of over 800 thought leaders, innovators, scientists, students and those at the frontlines of health and medicine.

TEDMED, the independently owned and operated health and medicine edition of the world-famous TED conference, is dedicated to “ideas worth spreading.” The annual conference provides a multidisciplinary platform for exploring the most critical challenges in health and medicine from new and provocative angles.

This year’s event theme is “What If…?”and speakers will be imagining new possibilities and progress in medicine, public health and biomedical sciences.

Dr. Letourneau will be speaking during a session titled “Fringe,” which will explore the fringes of scientific study to discover new insight from topics such as extreme altruism, artistic patients and wild adventures.

Dr. Letourneau’s talk will focus on how child sexual abuse can, and should be, prevented using a public health approach and give insight into what research tells us about how to prevent youth sexually attracted to younger children from acting on their attractions.

The conference will be livestreamed around the world and many of the TEDMED talks have a second life on TED.com, where they can get millions of views and be translated into dozens of languages.

We’re very hopeful that TEDMED will help us reach new audiences and stimulate conversation around preventing child sexual abuse. Stay tuned for more updates later this fall.

Help Wanted PinkWhile we’ve made tremendous progress recruiting participants for our Help Wanted study, we still need 10 more contributors to meet our goal. Participants must be 18 to 30 years old, fluent in English and developed an attraction to prepubescent children during or prior to adolescence. The ultimate goal of Help Wanted is to develop and provide helpful resources to adolescents attracted to young children. 

After we complete the anonymous interview process, we will analyze and summarize themes from the interviews and discuss how these themes will influence the development of a prevention intervention, one that is available to all youth with a sexual attraction to younger children. The prevention intervention will address the needs of adolescents attracted to children and promote their healthy development. We’ll also ensure that all materials destigmatize the act of asking for help. 

For more information about the project, see our recent blog post.

If you or someone you know is eligible to participate, please click here or contact our research team directly at MooreCenter.JHSPH@gmail.com.

PreventionIf you happened to listen to NPR last Monday, Nov. 2 when they aired this story, “What Happens if You Try to Prevent Every Single Suicide?” perhaps you were also struck at the similarities between suicide prevention and child sexual abuse prevention.

While there’s been a decline in the national homicide rate since the 1990s, suicide has been steadily increasing. In Detroit, to reduce the number of suicides, at-risk populations (people being treated for depression and other mental illnesses) have been targeted and assigned to appropriate care depending on initial screenings used to indicate how likely they might be to attempt suicide. This proactive approach is a marked departure from the past 15 years.

“The plan […] is intensive and thorough, an almost cookbook approach. Primary care doctors screen every patient with two questions: How often have you felt down in the past two weeks? And how often have you felt little pleasure in doing things? A high score leads to more questions about sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, thoughts of hurting oneself. All patients are questioned on every visit.

If the health providers recognize a mental health problem, patients are assigned to appropriate care — cognitive behavioral therapy, drugs, group counseling, or hospitalization if necessary. On each patient's medical record, providers have to attest to having done the screening, and they record plans for any needed care.”

Like suicide, child sexual abuse carries significant shame. In order to change beliefs and attitudes around both suicide and child sexual abuse, we need to continue to stigmatize the behavior while destigmiatizing asking for help. And like suicide prevention, we need to change the conversation from the idea that suicide and child sexual abuse are inevitable (“we can’t prevent them all”) to the belief that both are, in fact, 100% preventable with a targeted, evidence-based prevention program aimed at at-risk populations.

Dr. LetourneauI began researching aspects of sexual abuse in 1990 as a graduate student. Over twenty-five years later, I’m still here and still responding—most often—to the same question: How could someone sexually abuse a child?

My goal is to change that first, basic question from one that tries to understand what’s already happened to one that looks forward: How can we prevent that? It is past time to put our focus on prevention rather than relying solely on reactive intervention. This is not a new message—many, including our Center’s Scientific Advisory Board members have promoted the merits of preventing childhood victimization for decades. But now, more than ever, this is a message that seems to resonate, and we need to keep this momentum going.

Of course, just saying that child sexual abuse is preventable is insufficient. We must demonstrate it. As experts in the field of child sexual abuse prevention, we at the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse must be thorough, exacting and willing to take on projects and subject matter that many might find uncomfortable.

Through research and exploration comes a better understanding of the causes of child sexual abuse and clarity on the pathways toward prevention and intervention. And, quite honestly, I love this work and the wonderful cadre of people who are in it.

This month we celebrated our anniversary, and as we head into our third year, I feel confident that the growth we’ve experienced so far will allow us to explore new projects and identify new areas for research and development in the coming years. Namely, we have new projects to launch, policies on which to advise and the ever-present need to energize and excite our base of supporters to make funding this research possible. We have a lot to look forward to.

I remain sincerely grateful to the individuals, foundations and federal agencies that support our mission, and I look forward to many more successful and productive years to come.

Elizabeth Letourneau, PhD
Director, Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse