BOSTON-A new report, “A Call to Action for Policymakers and Advocates: Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Legislation in the States,” urges President Biden to appoint a Policy Czar and federal Interagency Task Force to work with private sector abuse prevention experts in addressing what law enforcement and public health experts are calling a pandemic within a pandemic. The 116-page report, researched by the Enough Abuse Campaign, documents the alarming increase in both in-home and online sexual abuse of minors and calls for urgent action to address it.
According to Jetta Bernier, Campaign Director and the report’s author, “Children from every community and from all economic, racial and cultural groups are included in the estimated one in ten children who are victims of child sexual abuse. And the pandemic has placed children at significantly greater risk, as confirmed by the unprecedented numbers of calls to rape crisis hotlines by minors over the past year. Consider the sad fact that over two-thirds of online child sexual abuse images appear to have been taken in a home setting.”
To address the crisis, the report calls for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to immediately fund training and technical assistance Resource Centers in each of the ten federal regions to assist all 50 states in implementing evidence-based programs and a set of prevention policies and practices.
The report’s recommendations, endorsed by collaborating partner Prevent Child Abuse America, the nation’s largest child abuse prevention organization, call upon lawmakers in every state to introduce legislation mandating all school employees and students to receive training on how to prevent, early identify and report child sexual abuse. According to Prevent Child Abuse America CEO Melissa Merrick, “While 32 states and D.C. have passed such laws, only 14 require training for all school employees and all students. Given U.S. Department of Education data that indicates 4.5 million school children experience some type of sexual misconduct or abuse by an adult in their schools, we must support schools to make this critical prevention education available.”
Adoption of a model Code of Conduct for all schools is also urged that details the inappropriate and boundary-violating interactions by adults with children, that if left unchecked, could lead to illegal and reportable sexual offenses. Stronger policies are proposed to screen applicants for school jobs to identify past sexual misconduct, prohibit confidentiality agreements aimed at suppressing information about an employee’s past misconduct and the practice referred to by the U.S. Department of Education as “passing the trash,” i.e., aiding an employee engaged in sexual misconduct or abuse to get a job in another school.
- The report urges national and community foundations to step up funding to support the scaling up of evidence-based child sexual abuse prevention education programs in schools and youth organizations, the development of new promising strategies and research to expand the knowledge base for prevention. According to Bernier, “There is a significant under-resourcing of prevention programs as most foundations focus their support on programs that address the aftermath of child abuse rather than on those aimed at preventing it in the first place. We urge funders to join the movement to prevent child sexual abuse and not be bystanders to the crisis.”
- The National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation has also endorsed the report. Its membership of over 35 child sexual abuse prevention experts and organizations lead the movement to prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation in the U.S.
About Enough Abuse:
The Enough Abuse Campaign is a multi-state, citizen education and community mobilization initiative initially developed under a 5-year grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2003-2008). It is a program of MassKids, a private, statewide child advocacy organization with a 60-year history of effective advocacy on behalf of the state’s most vulnerable children. MassKids is the site of Prevent Child Abuse Massachusetts, the state Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America.
For more information, visit www.enoughabuse.org, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-827-5218 for media interviews.