On October 4, 2017, Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau gave a talk at the World Congress for Child Dignity in the Digital World, a conference that brought together leaders and researchers from around the world to discuss the dangers of children becoming victims of online sexual abuse and bullying. The conference took place in Vatican City and was convened by the Child Protection Centre at the Pontifical Gregorian University. (Featured at left: Dr. Letourneau and Fr. Thomas Rosica.)
Dr. Letourneau’s talk was one of the few that introduced the idea of prevention and the importance of viewing child sexual abuse as a public health issue. She also discussed how most of our efforts in the U.S. go toward detection and punishment.
Minimum sentencing, sex offender registration and living restrictions are all policies that have been implemented after harm has already been done. None of these costly policies prevent child sexual abuse.
Another important concept that Dr. Letourneau covered was the idea that as long as we view people who sexually abuse children as monsters, we are going to overlook the people in our children’s lives that we would never suspect: coaches, priests, teachers and family friends are more likely to sexually abuse our children than strangers. We wrongly believe that people that hurt children are on a trajectory toward more offending and greater harm, when in fact, once caught, people who commit sex offences have very low risk of committing other sex offenses.Watch Dr. Letourneau’s talk here.