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Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Keyword: policy

Dr. Rebecca Fix, assistant professor at the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, wrote a column for Juvenile Justice Information Exchange that was published Monday, Jan. 8, 2018. 

In her column "Young Sex Offenders Shouldn't Have to Register; It's Ineffective and Hurts Everyone Around Them," Rebecca makes clear that according to research, registering children as sex offenders isn't only ineffective, it's also harmful.

Rebecca illustrates her point by recounting the circumstances of a 15-year-old boy who was charged with rape after having consensual sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend:

"After returning to his community following confinement, Demetrius was no longer welcome on his high school athletic teams, and anticipates he will not be admitted into college due to his inability to be scouted by college teams. In addition, his family has been impacted by his registration status. Demetrius and his mother are moving to a new town, as their community has ostracized them. Demetrius’ mother lost her friends once word spread about his legal difficulties, and they are no longer welcome in their church."

This is one heartbreaking example of the unnecessary hardships that registration places on children and their families. Read Rebecca's column here.

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

In 2016, the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse played a vital role in bringing knowledge and expertise of issues related to child sexual abuse prevention to the attention of our stakeholders.

Here are the headlines that have been the most impactful.

The List by Sarah Stillman. (The New Yorker). March 2016.
This long-form article describes the challenges of young adults who were required to register as sex offenders when they were children and discusses the work that researchers, policy experts and activists are doing to bring attention these harmful policies.

Should a Juvenile Offender be Locked Up Indefinitely? by William Brangham. (PBS NewsHour). June 2016.
The series “Broken Justice” looks closely at criminal justice issues and policies across the U.S.  In this episode, Brangham interviews youth who have been charged with sex crimes and are held beyond their release date. Dr. Letourneau asserts that because recidivism rates for juveniles charged with sex crimes are so low, the enormous cost associated with committing juveniles makes no sense and is a wasted cost to taxpayers.

After Jacob, Work Harder to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (op-ed) by Elizabeth Letourneau, PhD. (Star Tribune). September 2016.
Read our op-ed about the need for a paradigm shift in the way we view and respond to child sexual abuse. We cannot wait for children, like Jacob Wetterling, to be harmed before we take action.

What’s the Real Rate of Sex-Crime Recidivism? by Steven Yoder. (Pacific Standard). May 2016.
In the 1980s, a counselor working with convicted sex offenders made an assertion that would change history. Researchers, like Dr. Letourneau and others, are now setting the record straight: recidivism rates are much lower than were previously reported.

Read more news coverage here.

PartnershipRecently our work at the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse has been used to influence policy and elevate the national conversation about child abuse and neglect prevention through partnerships and meetings with high-level organizations committed to ending juvenile sex offender registration and preventing child sexual abuse.

The July 2016 report from the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN), an organization committed to state-based juvenile justice reform that advocates for policies and practices, cited our research on the damaging effects of juvenile sex offender registries and public notification policies. The report specifically noted our work studying the exceeding low, and declining, incidence of sexual reoffending by youth. Click here to read more.

Another concrete example of where our Center is having a national impact is with our involvement earlier this spring in a stakeholder round table meeting, “Changing the Conversation around Child Sexual Abuse and Neglect,” hosted by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). This event brought together national and federal partners including high-level staff from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Violence Prevention; the American Psychological Association and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, to discuss efforts to disseminate messages to prevent child sexual abuse and neglect. The report captured suggestions and recommendations for further action. Read the report here.

We will continue to be part of the national conversation around child sexual abuse prevention and look forward to joining with other like-minded organizations to lend our research and expertise in the prevention of child sexual abuse.

Civil Commitment

A recent editorial in the New York Times (“Sex Offenders Locked Up on A Hunch”) critiqued the usefulness of indefinite civil commitment for sex offenders and suggested that we should redirect resources from civil commitment toward community supervision. However, whether society commits indefinitely or enhances supervision, a child has already been harmed. Instead of directing more resources toward supervision, we need to invest in new approaches to stop child sexual abuse before it happens.

How can we prevent child sexual abuse? Research suggests that about half of child sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by juveniles under 18, and these offenses occur for a variety of reasons. Rather than solely funding after-the-fact approaches, scarce public dollars would be better spent researching and developing evidence-based, primary prevention programs that strengthen families’ ability to protect children from victimization and teach youth at risk for first-time perpetrating about responsible behavior with young children. This approach is consistent with the epidemiology of child sexual abuse and is similar to other kinds of violence prevention programs currently in practice.

We can no longer wait until harm has occurred before we respond. The stakes are too high.