Child Sexual Abuse Prevention
In 2015, over 50% of calls to Maine’s sexual assault crisis and support line were from or about someone who experienced sexual violence under the age of 18. 11.9% of Maine high school students (13.3% of girls, and 10.4% of boys) report having been physically forced to have sexual intercourse in their lifetime.1 10% of Maine’s high school students report having been forced to have sexual contact in any way in their lifetime.2 We know that childhood sexual violence has a lasting impact on survivors, their families, and significantly impacts our communities.3
The good news is that we know what works to address this issue. At the local level MECASA’s member centers provide sexual violence prevention education to nearly 50,000 students per year. For the youngest grades, the programming is geared toward supporting children’s sense of body ownership, and giving them the skills to recognize and respond to confusing or potentially dangerous situations. Member centers base this programming on nationally-recognized best practices in terms of language and delivery. Personal body safety education has been demonstrated to impart important concepts about body awareness to children, and those who participate in such education demonstrate protective behaviors significantly more often than children who don’t have such programming.4
In addition to educational sessions, MECASA and our member centers are dedicated to engaging with partners at the local and state level to deliver the best possible prevention programming for children in Maine. At the local level, member centers work with partners such as Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) councils or community action programs, and in many cases team-teach. At the statewide level MECASA is an active member of committees such as the statewide Maine Child Welfare Advisory Panel, and has collaborated for over 20 years with the Maine Department of Education’s Health Education Promotion Program. The Maine DOE’s Learning Results and Sexual Assault Key Concepts incorporate the knowledge and skills important to sexual abuse prevention, and MECASA’s statewide Prevention Education Curriculum Toolkit aligns with both of these resources.
Still, despite what we know about the skills and behaviors that may protect children who are being abused, the evidence is also clear that programming directed at children does not necessarily prevent victimization5 – rather, it gives children the tools to respond if victimization occurs. Only through community and cultural change (which we engage in with higher grade levels and with college and professional audiences) can we turn the tide of victimization.
1. MECASA Center Service Statistics, 2016.
2. Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey. Retrieved from: https://data.mainepublichealth.gov/miyhs/home
3. Fuentes-Perez, et al. (2013). Prevalence and correlates of child sexual abuse: A national study. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 54(1): 16-27.
4. Finkelhor, D. (2009). The prevention of child sexual abuse. The Future of Children, 19(2).
Noted researcher David Finkelhor examines initiatives to prevent child sexual abuse, which have focused on two primary strategies – offender management and school-based educational programs. He walks through the major goals of each initiative, the resulting data, and makes suggestions for the future.
This information packet was developed for sexual violence prevention educators, advocates, and their allied partners in public health and other disciplines. This packet contains resources to support the prevention of child sexual abuse and draws from research on child sexual abuse prevention programming, child sexual abuse risk and protective factors, and the public health model of prevention. Because of the size of the file, the sections have been broken up into: overview, children’s prevention programs, adult prevention programs,a prevention bulletin, a resource list, and a bibliography.
Stop It Now! prevents the sexual abuse of children by mobilizing adults, families, and communities to take actions that protect children before they are harmed. They provide support, information, and resources to keep children safe and create healthier communities. Their website includes red flags or warning signs for both victims and perpetrators, and a helpline for those who need support around making a report.
This document, developed by Stop it Now! briefly defines child sexual abuse, possible behavioral symptoms of a child who may be experiencing sexual abuse, tries to answer questions of why people sexually abuse children and if they can stop, discusses age-appropriate sexual behavior and the development of a family safety plan, and prevention, treatment, and recovery resources.
This factsheet, developed with thanks to tips from Stop It Now!, provides an overview and tips to child sexual abuse prevention.