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Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Receives Major Boost

CSA prevention is taking its place as a public health priority.

Key points

  • It’s important to hold adults appropriately accountable for child sexual abuse harm and to provide the resources survivors need.
  • Groundbreaking new prevention research is under way, including a multi-year, international study led by the Moore Center.
  • The Moore Center project will summarize empirical evidence, then identify, evaluate and help disseminate promising prevention strategies.
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The push to recognize child sexual abuse as a preventable public health problem is in the midst of a major surge, with ambitious new research underway, funders taking a greater interest in the work, and practitioners gaining front-line experience in preventing perpetration.

It’s important to hold adults appropriately accountable for the harm and to provide the resources survivors need. In addition, work led by the Moore Center on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse and a growing network of partners since 2012 shows that it’s equally important—and essential—to prevent harm from occurring in the first place.

That work begins with recognizing that many adults with a sexual attraction to children never take action. But an alarming proportion of those adults face stigma and low self-esteem that leave them isolated, impede them from seeking treatment, and place them at high risk of suicidal ideation and behavior compared to the general population.

One survey of 193 adults with sexual attraction to children found that 46% had thought about ending their lives, and 13% had tried, Postdoctoral Fellow Maggie Ingram, MHS, Ph.D. told the Moore Center’s Symposium 2021 in late April. Those results pointed to the need to address stigma at its source, disentangle the concepts of attraction to children and child sexual abuse, and relieve stress at the societal level and with individuals.

A major step in that direction is now in progress after Oak Foundation confirmed a five-year, $10.3-million research grant to identify, validate, and disseminate child sexual abuse perpetration prevention programs worldwide. The transformative gift to the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in collaboration with The Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research in Ottawa, Canada, is believed to be the single largest investment ever in the prevention of child sexual abuse perpetration.

Working with The Royal’s Dr. Michael Seto, Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau, and the entire Moore Center team will summarize the empirical evidence, identify promising prevention strategies, evaluate those strategies, and help disseminate them for broader impact in new regions and countries.

“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,” said Ellen J. MacKenzie, Ph.D., ScM, Dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Click here for more insights from the Moore Center’s recent virtual symposium.