As a result of increased public concern over the sexual assault of children and other forms of child victimization, over the past 25 years schools and other community organizations have developed and implemented programs designed to help children prevent assaults and other victimizations. While these programs vary, most include four components:
- Helping children identify dangerous situations;
- Teaching children techniques for evading these situations, such as saying 'no,' yelling and screaming, and running away;
- Encouraging children to tell an adult about the incident;
- And assuring the child that the incident is not his/her fault.
CCRC researchers have investigated the efficacy of such programs. Among the findings:
- Children appear to acquire the concepts that are being taught in these programs.
- Children involved in school-based prevention programs were more likely to use the school-taught self-protection strategies when victimized or threatened; were more likely to feel they were successful in protecting themselves; and were more likely to disclose to someone about the victimization attempts.
- Children in school-based prevention programs were not able to lessen the seriousness of assaults and, in fact, received more injuries in sexual assaults.
The Prevention of Childhood Sexual Abuse
This paper examines initiatives to prevent child sexual abuse, which have focused on two primary strategies—offender management and school-based educational programs. Recent major offender managment initiatives have included registering sex offenders, notifying communities about their presence, conducting background employment checks, controlling where offenders can live, and imposing longer prison sentences. Although these initiatives win approval from both the public and policy makers, little evidence exists that they are effective in preventing sexual abuse. On the other hand, school-based educational programs teach children such skills as how to identify dangerous situations, refuse an abuser’s approach, break off an interaction, and summon help. The programs also aim to promote disclosure, reduce self-blame, and mobilize bystanders. Considerable evaluation research exists about these programs, suggesting that they achieve certain of their goals.