New Principles to Reduce Child Sexual Abuse Risk

A new report seeks to lower the risk in organizational settings.

Posted Jan 13, 2021

Luciana C. Assini-Meytin, Ph.D., co-authored this post.

As many as one in four girls, and one in 10 boys, will experience some form of child sexual abuse during their childhood. Most children will experience child sexual abuse victimization in their own home or the home of the person engaging in the harmful behavior. However, child sexual abuse has no boundaries and also happens in organizational settings such as schools, recreational clubs, sports, and religious organizations. 

To curb these statistics, we recently partnered with several of the largest and longest operating youth-serving organizations in the U.S. to understand better the child sexual abuse prevention and response efforts that already exist in youth-serving organizations. These organizations gave us unprecedented access to policies, trainings, and codes of conduct that help formalize their child sexual abuse prevention and response efforts. In a study published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, we describe such actions and identify that these organizations already implement a majority of recommended best practices.  

Informed by this work, we released Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in the Context of National Youth-Serving Organizations, an online Desk Guide offering youth organizations recommendations to bolster policies and practices aimed at preventing child sexual abuse. In particular, our report is designed to provide a guiding framework to help unify organizations’ efforts to keep children safe. In this Desk Guide, we sought to shift focus away from a series of discrete rules to formulate overarching principles to keep children safe. These principles can create individualized protocols to meet youth organizations’ varying missions, risk concerns, and resources. 

Our guide, funded by the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, offers eight core principles designed to help youth-serving organizations consistently protect children from sexual abuse:

  1. Make children’s well-being and safety the organization’s highest priority.
  2. Have a systematic approach to child sexual abuse prevention training.
  3. Increase monitoring of adult-child interactions.
  4. Collaborate with children and parents and involve them in key decisions.
  5. Identify safety concerns and generate solutions to specific organizational child sexual abuse safety risks.
  6. Increase organization’s evaluation and accountability of child-safe practices.
  7. Address youth developmentally normative and problem sexual behavior.
  8. Strengthen human resources and management.

Youth-serving organizations do an enormous amount of good for the children they serve, and many have well-crafted, thoughtfully implemented policies for the protection of those children. We are optimistic that this Desk Guide will provide additional help to youth-serving organizations in their efforts to keep children safe. 

Click here to read the report.