• September 2009
  • Vol. 10, No. 7

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Promoting Healthy Environments to Stop Sexual Abuse

A recent report from the Prevention Institute analyzes the environmental factors and norms that contribute to child sexual abuse and exploitation and illustrates primary prevention strategies aimed at transforming our communities and preventing child sexual abuse. The policy brief, Transforming Communities to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: A Primary Prevention Approach, suggests that promoting healthy environments in all communities, rather than focusing on individual changes, is key to successful child abuse prevention.

The issue brief cites some of the environmental factors that increase the risk of child sexual abuse:

  • Technology that makes it difficult to maintain healthy boundaries
  • Popular culture promoting sexualized messages and rigid gender roles
  • Marginalized communities' greater exposure to unhealthy advertising and commercial exploitation
  • Consumer culture that floods children with damaging messages

An array of promising initiatives across the spectrum of prevention is described in six specific areas:

  • Influencing policy and legislation
  • Changing organizational practices
  • Fostering coalitions and networks
  • Educating providers
  • Promoting community education
  • Strengthening individual knowledge and skills

The policy brief cites specific actions within each area, with examples of practices and policy initiatives that have the potential to bring about community and systems-level changes. By understanding and transforming environments, communities can prevent child sexual abuse before it occurs.

Transforming Communities to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: A Primary Prevention Approach, by Annie Lyles, Larry Cohen, and Margot Brown, is available on the Prevention Institute website:

http://preventioninstitute.org/documents/MSFoundation_Childsexualabuseprx_FINAL_052609.pdf (250 KB)

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