School Psychology Review

Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse: An Analysis of Issues, Educational Programs, and Research Findings

Deborah J. Tharinger, James J. Krivacska, Marsha Laye-McDonough, Linda Jamison, Gayle G. Vincent, An

pp. 614-634

Mini-Series on Primary Prevention: From Theory on Practice and Mini-Series on Research Methods in School Psychology

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ABSTRACT: Although the main targets of the effort toward the prevention of child sexual abuse need to be the conditions that cause and support it, a prominent and popular aspect of the prevention effort that has emerged in the past decade involves educational programs aimed at children. Most of these programs are implemented in the schools. The goals of these programs are to provide children with knowledge about sexual abuse, including ways to respond to abusive approaches, and to aid children in disclosing abuse if they have been victimized.Although well intentioned, there is no published research support for the conceptual assumptions (largely involving empowerment) upon which the prevention education programs are based and as yet, sparse empirical support for their effectiveness. Thus, the decision of a school district to adopt and implement a sexual abuse prevention education program is a serious one. school psychologists are in a key position to inform decision makers about the potential and the limitations of child sexual abuse prevention programs and to assist in developing, implementing, and evaluating more effective school-based programs.In addition to discussing general issues about the etiology of child sexual abuse and the relationship of etiology to prevention efforts, five questions are addressed:(a) What is the nature of child sexual abuse prevention programs? (b) Do prevention programs prevent children from being sexually abused? (c) Do prevention programs identify children who have been sexually abused by facilitating disclosure? (d) Is it fair and reasonable to expect children to participate in efforts to prevent their own sexual abuse? (e) What issues do school psychologists need to consider in developing, implementing, and evaluating school-based child sexual abuse prevention programs? Data are presented on the nature of child sexual abuse prevention programs from a research study that systematically evaluated 41 commercially available written materials on child sexual abuse prevention.