What Has Been Done To Prevent Child Sexual Abuse?

Important information about prevention programs that have been done:

  • Most programs are given to children aged 6-13 (Kenny, Capri, Thakkar-Kolar, Ryan, & Runyon, 2008).
  • “Children as young as three can be effectively taught self-protection skills, parental and family involvement is important, and repeated exposure helps children maintain knowledge gains” (Kenny et al. 2008, p. 36).

Prevention Programs around the world:

(Kenny et al., 2008):

  • The Body Safety Training (BST): behavioral principles to teach children body safety skills (can be used by parents and teachers).
  • The Child Assault Prevention Program (CAP): workshops for children, and educational seminars for parents and school staff.
  • The ‘Feeling Yes, Feeling No’: videotapes focused on basic skills that build self-worth, reinforce understanding of feelings, skills to help children assess potentially dangerous situations involving strangers and trusted adults.
  • The Good-Touch/Bad-Touch Program: skills needed to avoid violence, what is abuse, five body safety rules, how to say ‘No’, what to do if they are threatened.
  • The Safe Child Program: stranger safety and staying safe in unsupervised situations.
  • Talking About Touching: personal safety steps, photo-lessons cards, take-home letter for parents, poster with the safety steps, videos and songs.

(Lalor & McElvaney, 2010):

  • Triple P Positive Parenting Program: “…Provision of media messages on positive parenting and information resources such as advice sheets and videos, short, targeted intervention for children with specific behavioral problems offered by primary care practitioners, an intensive training program for parents, and services to address broader family issues such as relationship conflict, parental depression, anger, and stress” (p. 169).

(Krahé & Knappert, 2009)

  • (No) Child’s Play ([K]ein Kinderspiel):  Theatre play designed for children aged 6 to 8 who are in first and second grade of primary school (Germany).

“The play presents a day in the life of 2 siblings who encounter a series of situations that might entail risk of sexual abuse. In each situation, the protagonist has to decide how to respond to the behavior of an adult at which point the action is halted and Huggy, the kangaroo, steps in. Huggy’s role is to work out with the protagonists and the involvement of the audience how best to deal with the situation. After each scene, the players repeat the main points in a song, with the audience joining in for a simple chorus line” (p. 323).

“The intervention package includes a 3-hour training sessions for teachers to prepare them for their task of guiding the children through the performance and a 3-hour information evening for parents designed to provide facts and raise awareness about sexual abuse” (p. 324).

The program must be tailored to its cultural context and the situations presented to the children must be realistic and linked to their everyday experience.

Important things to include in prevention programs (Kenny et al., 2008):

  • Teach children the correct terms for their genitalia so that they can communicate inappropriate touching with the correct names, reducing misunderstandings from adults.
  • “…Include a discussion about blame and allow children to share their beliefs and misconceptions about perpetrators and victims” (p. 38).
  • Include parents and teachers by educating them.
  • When teaching children about possible perpetrators, it is important to warn them about strangers as well as known adults, relatives or siblings.
  • It is also important to talk children about the behaviors that perpetrators use to lure children such as tricks and threads.
  • The skills frequently taught:
    • Learning to say ‘no’
    • Leaving the situation
    • Informing a trusting adult
    • Learning the medical names for one’s genitalia
    • Other skills that have been taught:
      • Body safety skills
      • Understanding of feelings
      • Skills to assess potentially dangerous situations involving strangers and trusted adults
      • Skills that build self-worth
      • Staying safe in unsupervised situations
      • Personal safety steps
      • Assertiveness training
      • Identification of inappropriate and potentially abusive situations.

Important issues to consider (Kenny et al., 2008):

  • Cultural factors: some children and families are hesitant to report CSA because they are afraid of discrimination.
  • Preschoolers gain more knowledge about genitalia terminology when taught by parents.
  • When both parents and teachers teach children, they gain more knowledge about appropriate touch and personal safety skills.
  • Mass prevention is less effective than spaced presentation of the material.
  • “Programs for younger children should avoid abstract concepts, provide multiple opportunities to practice the skills, use stimulating material and occur over several days” (p. 45).
  • Younger children must be reassured that abuse is not their fault because of their egocentrism.
  • Teenager programs could address dating violence and they do not need to be as concrete as the programs for younger kids.
  • Written information should be given in the native language of the participants.
  • Avoid the use of the terms “good and bad touch” and use “okay and not okay touch” instead (this avoids thinking that all sexual touches are bad and avoids thinking that they are bad – the children themselves-).
  • Consider that sexual abuse does not always create uncomfortable feelings. Touching and kissing may cause pleasure and arousal.
  • “Being comfortable with their bodies is a good way for personal safety training to begin with children (Krazier, 2002, as cited in Kenny et al., 2008).

Tools used in the prevention programs to teach the skills (Kenny et al., 2008):

  • Photo-lessons cards, take-home letter for parents, poster with the safety steps, videos and songs.
  • Videotapes.
  • Role-playing: a useful way to teach body safety skills to preschoolers (utilize these skills in the context of dangerous situations).

A New Perspective of Prevention (Bolen, 2003)

  • Target the social definition of the male role by promoting healthy relationship patterns:
    • Address interpersonal violence, male dominance, and negative attitudes toward women.
    • “Present more prosocial definitions of masculinity that allow them to express their masculinity in healthier ways that by choosing aggressive sexuality” (p. 182).
    • “For all ages, boys must be taught better methods of expressing their masculinity than appropriating acquaintances for their sport or conquest” (p. 183).
    • Start with preschool and early school years: It is the time when they come to understand gender identity. In this population, focus on the promotion of healthy behaviors for boys and girls in friendship relations (In Russell’s study, offenders under age 14 committed most friend abuse, p. 183). Teach bounds of appropriate contact.
    • Focus also on preadolescence and early adolescence: “A period when they are discovering their own sexuality and are beginning to contemplate how to express it” (p. 182).  Focus on romantic relationships (In Russell’s study, offenders between ages 14 and 21 committed most date abuse).
    • Use broader messages that teach the bounds of appropriate contact in same-sex friendships or romantic relationships.
  • Target high-risk populations: Stepfathers and boys.

Written by Diana Loaiza


Bolen, R. (2003, April). Child sexual abuse: Prevention or promotion? Social Work, 48(2), 174-185

Kenny, M. C., Capri, V., Thakkar-Kolar, R. R., Ryan, E. E., & Runyon, M. K. (2008).  Child sexual abuse: From prevention to self-protection. Child Abuse Review, 17, 36-54. doi: 10.1002/car.1012

Krahé, B. & Knappert, L. (2009). A group-randomized evaluation of a theatre-based sexual abuse prevention programme for primary school children in Germany. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 19, 321-329. doi: 10.1002/casp.1009

Larlor, K. & McElvaney, R. (2010).  Child sexual abuse, links to later sexual exploitation/high-risk sexual behavior, and prevention/treatment programs. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 11(4), 159-177. doi: 10.1177/1524838010378299



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