Are CSA prevention programs focusing on children ineffective?

Hello everyone! I finished reading the book “The Trauma Myth” yesterday.

I’ve already talked about this book here in another topic, whoever wants to know more about it just look it up, and also @Meagan wrote a very good review about it, in one of Prostasia’s newsletters (again just look it up if you want). In general I really liked the book, but there was something that made me thoughtful.

At one point, Susan Clancy(the author) argues that CSA prevention programs, such as sex ed, naming bodie parts, teaching about “good touch/bad touch”, isn’t actually very effective and it doesn’t help preventing CSA.

Since I got into these issues involving CSA prevention, I’ve always seen everyone argue(including experts) that these types of programs were very important and necessary and always agreed and believed that. However, Clancy’s arguments sounded pretty reasonable to me and now I’m in doubt. I believe that @Meagan and @terminus already read this book, but that probably isn’t the case for most people here. So I’m going to leave the excerpt from the book Which she argues about here. And now I ask, what do you think? Do you agree with it or not? Do you partially agree? Were you in doubt by these arguments? I’m really curious to know!

QUOTE from “The Trauma Myth” by Susan Clancy:
“The implications of accepting the truth about sexual abuse for prevention purposes are crystal clear. Most prevention programs today target children; they focus on teaching potential victims to protect themselves and ward off perpetrators. They do not work very well; indeed, we’ve seen many of these programs in schools today, and kids are still being abused at startling rates.23 The concepts and strategies they would need to be taught are too developmentally complex. Even if children can be taught to develop an understanding of sexual behavior (for example to differentiate between “good touch” and “bad touch”), we should not assume that this means they can act on this knowledge when faced with a confusing situation with a perpetrator. 24 Responding appropriately is not only associated with social reasoning but also with the complexity of the task. Perpetrators do not announce, “I’m here to touch your private parts”; rather they disguise and conceal the sexual nature of the activity (for example, by presenting it as hygiene) or encourage the child to think of the activity as mutual (“This is what people who love each other do”).25 In short, the unfortunate combination of childhood cognitive and developmental vulnerability and the presence of a perpetrator who will seize opportunities to exploit this vulnerability renders prevention programs targeting children largely ineffective. As one experts sums it up, “Neither evaluation research nor knowledge about cognitive and social development gives any reason to believe that sexual abuse education programs targeting children are effective in preventing abuse.”26 Given that the situations they will confront will likely be too complicated for them to learn to grasp, it is unfair to expect them to. Consider the following anecdote: My friend read a book called Good Touch Bad Touch designed to teach children about sexual abuse. Her seven-year-old daughter understood every word, and they talked about what the book meant. The next week they went to the doctor. The girl had been having abdominal pains, and her mother worried it might be a urinary tract infection. The doctor tried to examine the child’s genitals, but she would not let him. The mother became frustrated: “Sweetie, he is a doctor. He is someone you trust. He is allowed to touch you.” “But Mommy,” the girl explained, “I don’t like it. It feels like bad touch. I’m confused.” Her confusion makes sense. Her mother was confused too. How should she respond? The adult finds it confusing to describe the difference between sexual and nonsexual touching, between people who are safe and people who are not (and in my opinion this distinction is not even possible in cases of sexual abuse). Can you imagine what it is like for children? How vulnerable they must feel? How confusing the situations they are so often put in become? Given this, it is not surprising that most existing programs for sexual abuse prevention do not work. As one scholar explains, “It is hard to consider these programs as prevention. . . . They are palliative at best.27”

Sources the author used:

23-D. Finkelhor, N. Asdigian, and J. Dziuba-Leatherman, “Victimization Prevention Programs for Children: A Follow-up,” American Journal of Public Health 85 (1995): 1684-89; R. M. Bolen, “Child Sexual Abuse: Prevention or Promotion?” Social Work 48 (2003): 174-85.

24- D. Finkelhor, N. Asdigian, and J. Dziuba-Leatherman, “The Effectiveness of Victimization Prevention Instruction: An Evaluation of Children’s Responses to Actual Threats and Assaults,” Child Abuse and Neglect 19 (1995): 141-53

25-S. K. Wurtele and C. L. Miller-Perrin, Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Sharing the Responsibility (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992); J. L. Olsen and C. S. Widom, “Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect,” Applied and Preventive Psychology 2 (1993): 217-29; Burkhardt and Rotatori, Treatment and Prevention of Childhood Sexual Abuse; D. Finkelhor and D. Daro, “Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse,” in The Battered Child, eds. M. E. Helfer, R. S. Kempe, and R. D. Krugman, 5th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 615-26.

26-G. B. Melton, foreword to Wurtele and Miller-Perrin, Preventing Child Sexual Abuse, ix.

27-Quoted in Bolen, “Child Sexual Abuse,” 174-85

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I think, I don’t know and I’m not an expert, but I think that these types of prevention methods probably have value even without a large amount of success. Unfortunately, in teaching kids what constitutes abuse, they are still unlikely to be able to prevent someone older, especially an adult from actually abusing them if the adult is set on their course. But they are more likely to report before abuse becomes more egregious. For instance, hugs and talk that are not entirely appropriate (more grooming in fairness), vs things like showing or touching of genitals.

There’s value in giving kids whatever protections we can and that includes making them aware of their rights to say no and protect themselves. There is also a lot about consent and relationship focused education that sets people up for better situations as they become old enough to date and eventually consent to sex.

That said, CSA is a systemic public health issue and like all public health issues, the most effective things include education but also require community and support. Giving kids good models of consent and info on how to have the healthiest possible sex lives is a small piece of the puzzle. MAP support is, frankly, also a smallish piece of the puzzle given the stats.

What leads to real prevention is providing things for people. Housing, food, and financial security for families so that proper supervision can be more evenly applied. Breaking the entire foster care system down and building it back from the ground up so it’s safer and actually provides support, is an important piece of the puzzle. Financial, food, housing, and mental health support for minors who are thrown out of their homes (lgbtq+ kids being the most vulnerable). Many minors in those situations turn to survival sex work and that is one of many ways they are left more vulnerable to trafficking AND being arrested for trying to survive.

We also need to give these things to people who have already offended and served their time. Leaving desperate people in desperate situations does nothing to protect anyone, and it certainly doesn’t encourage people to believe they are more than their crimes. Without a road to redemption, there’s little impetus to do better.

And we have to de-stigmatize the ENTIRE subject of CSA. People are so scared of this issue that we get death threats for talking about it. Until researchers and experts can be heard above the din, we’re not really trying to solve this issue.

Anyway, my 2 cents.

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Thanks for your response Meagan! :slight_smile:

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I’m not saying this a “good” way to re organize your paragraph but it’s better.
I Mostly did this so I could understand it, I’m kinda bad at reading and lose track of where I am easily.

I also don’t really have a position on the question at hand.

.

.

Hello everyone! I finished reading the book “The Trauma Myth” yesterday.

I’ve already talked about this book here in another topic, whoever wants to know more about it just look it up, and also @Meagan wrote a very good review about it, in one of Prostasia’s newsletters (again just look it up if you want). In general I really liked the book, but there was something that made me thoughtful.

At one point, Susan Clancy(the author) argues that CSA prevention programs, such as sex ed, naming bodie parts, teaching about “good touch/bad touch”, isn’t actually very effective and it doesn’t help preventing CSA.

Since I got into these issues involving CSA prevention, I’ve always seen everyone argue(including experts) that these types of programs were very important and necessary and always agreed and believed that. However, Clancy’s arguments sounded pretty reasonable to me and now I’m in doubt. I believe that @Meagan and @terminus already read this book, but that probably isn’t the case for most people here. So I’m going to leave the excerpt from the book Which she argues about here. And now I ask, what do you think? Do you agree with it or not? Do you partially agree? Were you in doubt by these arguments? I’m really curious to know!

QUOTE from “The Trauma Myth” by Susan Clancy:
“The implications of accepting the truth about sexual abuse for prevention purposes are crystal clear. Most prevention programs today target children; they focus on teaching potential victims to protect themselves and ward off perpetrators. They do not work very well; indeed, we’ve seen many of these programs in schools today, and kids are still being abused at startling rates.23 The concepts and strategies they would need to be taught are too developmentally complex. Even if children can be taught to develop an understanding of sexual behavior (for example to differentiate between “good touch” and “bad touch”), we should not assume that this means they can act on this knowledge when faced with a confusing situation with a perpetrator. 24 Responding appropriately is not only associated with social reasoning but also with the complexity of the task. Perpetrators do not announce, “I’m here to touch your private parts”; rather they disguise and conceal the sexual nature of the activity (for example, by presenting it as hygiene) or encourage the child to think of the activity as mutual (“This is what people who love each other do”).25 In short, the unfortunate combination of childhood cognitive and developmental vulnerability and the presence of a perpetrator who will seize opportunities to exploit this vulnerability renders prevention programs targeting children largely ineffective. As one experts sums it up, “Neither evaluation research nor knowledge about cognitive and social development gives any reason to believe that sexual abuse education programs targeting children are effective in preventing abuse.”26 Given that the situations they will confront will likely be too complicated for them to learn to grasp, it is unfair to expect them to. Consider the following anecdote: My friend read a book called Good Touch Bad Touch designed to teach children about sexual abuse. Her seven-year-old daughter understood every word, and they talked about what the book meant. The next week they went to the doctor. The girl had been having abdominal pains, and her mother worried it might be a urinary tract infection. The doctor tried to examine the child’s genitals, but she would not let him. The mother became frustrated: “Sweetie, he is a doctor. He is someone you trust. He is allowed to touch you.” “But Mommy,” the girl explained, “I don’t like it. It feels like bad touch. I’m confused.” Her confusion makes sense. Her mother was confused too. How should she respond? The adult finds it confusing to describe the difference between sexual and nonsexual touching, between people who are safe and people who are not (and in my opinion this distinction is not even possible in cases of sexual abuse). Can you imagine what it is like for children? How vulnerable they must feel? How confusing the situations they are so often put in become? Given this, it is not surprising that most existing programs for sexual abuse prevention do not work. As one scholar explains, “It is hard to consider these programs as prevention. . . . They are palliative at best.27”

Sources the author used:

23-D. Finkelhor, N. Asdigian, and J. Dziuba-Leatherman, “Victimization Prevention Programs for Children: A Follow-up,” American Journal of Public Health 85 (1995): 1684-89; R. M. Bolen, “Child Sexual Abuse: Prevention or Promotion?” Social Work 48 (2003): 174-85.

24- D. Finkelhor, N. Asdigian, and J. Dziuba-Leatherman, “The Effectiveness of Victimization Prevention Instruction: An Evaluation of Children’s Responses to Actual Threats and Assaults,” Child Abuse and Neglect 19 (1995): 141-53

25-S. K. Wurtele and C. L. Miller-Perrin, Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Sharing the Responsibility (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992); J. L. Olsen and C. S. Widom, “Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect,” Applied and Preventive Psychology 2 (1993): 217-29; Burkhardt and Rotatori, Treatment and Prevention of Childhood Sexual Abuse; D. Finkelhor and D. Daro, “Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse,” in The Battered Child, eds. M. E. Helfer, R. S. Kempe, and R. D. Krugman, 5th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 615-26.

26-G. B. Melton, foreword to Wurtele and Miller-Perrin, Preventing Child Sexual Abuse, ix.

27-Quoted in Bolen, “Child Sexual Abuse,” 174-85.

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Ok, thank you so much!

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