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Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Press Releases

March 25, 2021

Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse Teams Up with Darkness to Light for National Conference Presented by the Monique Burr Foundation for Children
Virtual conference to take place April 27th-29th, 2021

New Year, new symposium. The Moore Center’s Child Sexual Abuse: A Public Health Perspective symposium will virtual this year on April 27-29. For the first time, the Moore Center andDarkness to Light are teaming up to offer their annual prevention events Child Sexual Abuse: A Public Health Perspective and IGNITE 2021 in a single event.

“The future of child sexual abuse prevention is collaborative,” said Elizabeth Letourneau, PhD director of the Moore Center. “By working together with the Darkness to Light and other organizations, we can make a bigger impact and ultimately keep more children safe by being proactive and prevention focused. Also, we are excited to collaborate with the Darkness to Light to bring even more novel content to our conference attendees.”

Individuals and organizations attending this conference have the opportunity to participate in advanced training seminars and thought-provoking, interactive sessions led by some of the most respected experts in child protection.

This year’s confirmed Moore Center speakers include (among many more):

· Bridgette De Lay, JD, Director, Prevent Child Abuse Programme, Oak Foundation

· Helena Duch, PhD, Head of Solutions Subprogramme, Oak Foundation

· Michael Seto, PhD, Director, Forensic Mental Health Research Unit, Director, Forensic Rehabilitation Research in the Integrated  Forensic Program, The Royal Institute of Mental Health Research

· Keith Kaufman, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology, Portland State University

Additional presenters sponsored by the Monique Burr Foundation for Children and Darkness to Light include:

· Alexandra Zarini, of the Alexandra Gucci Children’s Foundation

· Rabbi Avremi Zippel, Jewish Rabbi and activist for sexual violence survivors

Presented by the Monique Burr Foundation for Children, the conference brings together sexual abuse prevention leaders from across the country for the common goal of making communities safer for children. Offering three session tracks: ENGAGE, ENACT, & EMBED, the conference will have something for everyone. For more information and to register for the conference, please click here.

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March 3, 2021

JOHNS HOPKINS MOORE CENTER FOR THE PREVENTION OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE RECEIVES $10.3 MILLION GRANT FOR GLOBAL PREVENTION PROGRAM
--Center will conduct research studies and assess and develop perpetration prevention programs aimed at curbing child sexual abuse

The Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has been awarded $10.3 million from Oak Foundation for the Center’s new “Global Perpetration Prevention: Translating Knowledge into Action” program. The five-year program will identify, validate, and disseminate perpetration prevention programs worldwide. The award is thought to be the single largest investment in child sexual abuse prevention.

“Since its inception in 2012, the Moore Center has taken effective public health approaches to address and mitigate child sexual abuse,” said Dean Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD, ScM. “Yet this harm toward children is still all too common. This generous award from Oak Foundation will allow the Moore Center to build on its outstanding research and preventive strategies, not just here in the U.S., but worldwide.”

As part of this effort, the Center will launch an online capacity-building hub to encourage widespread adoption of effective child sexual abuse perpetration prevention strategies. This hub will summarize the empirical evidence for policymakers, practitioners, and other stakeholders looking to implement perpetration prevention programs in new regions and countries and provide consultation and other resources.

"This award is transformative. This is the type of investment for the type of work needed to truly prevent child sexual abuse from happening in the first place and to keep children safe,” said Elizabeth Letourneau, PhD, director of the Moore Center and co-principal investigator for the award. "This funding will help us evaluate the most promising programs and then build global capacity to implement the effective programs. This project is more than research—it translates to action.”

The Moore Center will collaborate with Michael Seto, PhD, director of the Forensic Research Unit at The Royal's Institute of Mental Health Research and a professor in Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa. Seto is a leading investigator on pedophilia and online child sexual exploitation and abuse. His work has helped to identify factors that increase or decrease risk that people with sexual interest in children will act on that interest. As co-principal investigator of the Moore Center’s Global Perpetration Prevention program, Seto will lead efforts to identify and rigorously evaluate existing perpetration prevention programs.

Each year the U.S. spends more than $6 billion to imprison sex offenders. In contrast, last year the federal government earmarked $1 million for child sexual abuse prevention research. The Moore Center maintains that child sexual abuse is preventable, not inevitable, and focuses on developing strong prevention strategies, collaborating with policymakers, and empirically evaluating the effects of current sex crime policies.

"We see a unique and world-changing opportunity to prevent child sexual abuse from occurring in the first place by investing in a program of work focused on identifying, evaluating, and promoting effective perpetration prevention strategies,” said Seto. “Our goal is to see the prevention of child sexual abuse on governmental agendas everywhere.”

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March 1, 2021

The Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse awarded a $1.6 million, four-year research grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Moore Center to collaborate with Barry University to create an online intervention for people with an attraction to children

In January 2020, the Moore Center was awarded a $1.6 million grant from the CDC to develop, execute, and test the effectiveness of Help Wanted Prevention, a free, online course aimed to help individuals attracted to younger children live safe, healthy, non-offending lives.

“The stigma associated with having a sexual interest in children is tremendous but having the attraction does not at all doom a person to acting on that attraction,” said Elizabeth Letourneau, PhD, director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse and co-PI. “Many people do not act, but still want support in other areas of their lives and of course some people do want support in avoiding abusive behavior. The bottom line is that many people with sexual attraction to children seek and utilize supportive services. That’s what makes preventive inventions such as Help Wanted so important.”

In collaboration with Jill Levenson, PhD, professor, School of Social Work at Barry University and co-investigator, the Moore Center team will conduct an empirically rigorous evaluation of Help Wanted, to determine whether it works as intended. This research project is the first of its kind in the U.S. and breaks new ground in the primary prevention of child sexual abuse.

In the months ahead, the study will be executed in three phases including an initial revision of Help Wanted based on feedback from current help-seekers, a randomized control evaluation trial, and a final revision of the intervention based on trial results. Ultimately, this study will determine whether Help Wanted is efficacious in reducing child sexual abuse perpetration behaviors and improving the psychosocial well-being of help seekers.

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December 9, 2020

NEW REPORT SETS OUT PRINCIPLES TO REDUCE CHILD SEXUAL ASSAULT RISK IN YOUTH GROUP SETTINGS
 

A new report from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers offers recommendations for youth organizations to bolster policies and practices aimed at preventing child sexual abuse.

To inform their guidance, the authors examined current strategies used by youth organizations and recommended potential improvements built around eight principles. Funded by the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, Preventing Child Sexual Abuse In The Context Of National Youth Serving Organizations, was released today at the 3rd annual Bloomberg American Health Summit.

“We hope leaders of youth serving organizations will find this report helpful when considering how they go about protecting children,” says the report’s lead author, Elizabeth Letourneau, PhD, professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, also at the Bloomberg School. “In particular, our report is designed to provide a guiding framework to help unify organizations’ efforts to keep children as safe as possible.”

Letourneau, who has spent three decades developing and evaluating effective ways to prevent child sexual abuse, emphasizes that youth organizations do an enormous amount of good for the children they serve, and many have well-crafted, thoughtfully implemented policies for the protection of millions of American children.

Yet overall, as many as one in four girls, and one in 10 boys, will experience some form of child sexual abuse during their childhood. Research indicates only one in three of child sexual assault incidents are reported to a parent or other adult, and only one in five are reported to police. This abuse often has long-term consequences, including serious emotional trauma.

In their report the researchers recommend eight core principles that could help youth organizations protect children from sexual abuse. Among them:

· Focus on child wellbeing and safety above all else. The goal here is for organizations to instill throughout the organization a dedication to child wellbeing and safety as a paramount

goal and a prevailing culture. For example, a coach’s decision about whether to push a child harder on a certain skill (e.g., a gymnastics routine) would rest on whether doing so is beneficial to the physical and emotional wellbeing of the child; winning is secondary.

· Increase monitoring of adult-child interactions. Increased monitoring is an important strategy to enhance the safety of children participating in YSO programming. One strategy is to make adult-child interactions more visible (e.g., ensuring clear line-of-sight on playgrounds and fields; keeping meeting room doors ajar; placing windows in interior doors and walls). For mentoring programs that rely on one-on-one activities, “visibility” is increased via regular contacts by program staff with parents, youth, and mentors.

· Collaborate with children and parents. Arguably, the most important constituents of youth serving organizations are children and parents. True collaboration moves beyond communicating with parents and children to actively involving them in key decision-making activities.

In developing child sexual abuse policies and practices, many organizations focus on numerous specific and unsystematic rules rather than overall principles. “This approach can be ineffective,” Letourneau says. For instance, some organizations have a policy requiring two or more adults whenever children are present. In practice, this is often unworkable; many organizations are built around mentoring, which requires one-on-one contact. Instead of focusing on numbers, the authors recommend emphasizing the broad principle of improved monitoring, which can be achieved through a range of strategies.

In the U.S., there has been much less focus on preventing child sexual abuse and more on punishing those convicted of a crime. “This is understandable,” says Letourneau. “But the emphasis on incarceration does little to prevent abuse: People with prior sex crimes convictions commit only about five percent of sex crimes, which means we are leaving 95% of the problem unaddressed.”

She emphasizes that prevention efforts need support from federal and state governments. Every year, the U.S. spends about $6 billion to imprison all sex offenders, and only $1 million on child sexual abuse prevention research. “Of course, adults who commit sex crimes against children should be held accountable,” says Letourneau. “But prevention remains the goal.”

For more information, visit https://americanhealth.jhu.edu/youth-serving-organizations.

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May 20, 2020

PREVENTING CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE DURING COVID-19

Moore Center launches family resource pages, online course for people concerned about their own sexual feelings toward children

When stay-at-home orders were issued across the country in March, workers at the National Sexual Assault Hotline came to a sobering realization: for the first time ever, half of hotline calls were made by children. In addition to reporting sexual abuse, these children discussed concerns about their safety while isolated at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Overall, the number of calls to the hotline made by children rose by 22%, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, which operates the hotline. Of those callers, 79% said they were living with their abuser and 67% identified their abuser as a family member. Similarly, as the coronavirus response pushes Americans online for work, education, and socialization, the risks to children in online environments have risen. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says the number of CyberTipline reports of suspected online child sexual abuse and exploitation in March surpassed 2 million and marked a 106% increase in reports compared to the same timeframe in 2019.

“The coronavirus crisis has inadvertently generated two areas of concern,” says Elizabeth Letourneau, director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse. “First, the risk for online offending has increased due to adults and children spending more time online for work education and recreation. Second, the risk for offending perpetrated by household members has increased as adults and children spend more time confined together.”

To overcome these challenges, the Moore Center assembled a list of resources for families to prevent child sexual abuse during the pandemic and, in concert with co-investigator Michael Seto from the Royal Ottawa Healthcare Group and support of the Oak Foundation, a list for individuals concerned about their own sexual feelings involving children.

What is perhaps heartening is that amid these increased risks, organizations dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse such as Stop It Now! have reported increased traffic to their resource webpages for people who have concerns about their own sexual thoughts and behaviors. To help meet the need of increased help-seeking, the Center also fast-tracked the release of its Help Wanted Prevention Intervention, a free and online course that supports people with sexual interest in children to live healthy non-offending lives. This effort was also supported by the Oak Foundation.

“The stigma associated with having a sexual interest in children is tremendous but having the attraction does not doom a person to acting on that attraction,” Letourneau says. “Many people make the decision to keep children safe and to keep themselves safe by not acting on it. They need support.”

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