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Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Keyword: policy

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.

Drs. Ryan Shields and Elizabeth LetourneauI’m thrilled that Dr. Ryan Shields and I were featured in this month’s issue of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Magazine. The article, Safer Harbors: Emphasizing Prevention Over Punishment, wonderfully written by Maryalice Yakutchik, discusses our newest research project on Safe Harbor legislation, which we’re launching soon.

Safe Harbor laws protect children who have been arrested for prostitution by directing them to supportive services and shielding them from prosecution. There are still too many people who believe that children in these instances are not victims, but are committing adult offences and should be charged accordingly. For more on this research, be sure to download Child Sex Trafficking in the United States: Identifying Gaps and Research Priorities from a Public Health Perspective, a white paper that resulted from a symposium with the Advisory Council on Child Trafficking (ACCT).

I’m glad to see more news coverage of Safe Harbor laws and child sex trafficking in the last few months. From lawmakers in Georgia pushing for stronger penalties for sex trafficking while protecting child victims to traction in the federal government by Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa co-sponsoring the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act in Congress, this topic is important and more than ever, we are coming to agreement that children who are victims of sex trafficking should be shielded from arrest and given the support they desperately need.