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Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Keyword: sex offenders

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.

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.