We Are Survivors 

This blog is dedicated to the tens of millions of adult survivors of child abuse and neglect who get up every day and try to work and function in a world that seems to not care about us.

Child Abuse Prevention Programs

During the 1970s and 1980s, child abuse prevention programs were developed for school systems. They were primarily aimed at teaching children how to possibly avoid abuse not realizing they were attempting to pit small children against powerful, manipulative child molestersHas any of this work over the last 40+ years? NO. The rate of child abuse has not dropped considerably. America has no real grasp of the number of children being abused because most children, and adult survivors of child abuse, never tell anyone. The only statistics available are for those children who are reported to Child Protective Services which is the tip of the iceberg.

To be effective, children would have to be equipped with a wide variety of skills to cover broad situations in various locations. What should a child do if s/he is alone versus being at a party with other people around? What should a child do if s/he has been groomed by a trusted parent, grandparent, uncle, brother, mother, etc. that fondling is normal behavior within a family? Why would we even want to go into all of that with children in the first place? Why aren’t we targeting potential offenders instead? 

Dr. Judith Herman stated, “When one-third of the female population has been sexually victimized, common sense would suggest that some comparable percentage of the male population has been doing the victimizing.”[1] Keep in mind that the “vast majority of all sex offenders—possibly 90 percent or more—are not convicted.[2] Another major contributing factor is the socialization of boys who are taught by other men and boys the “art” of conquest. This usually happens in a couple of ways. A boy abuses a girl while others watch. Another method is where a teenage boy abuses a girl and then boasts about it to his friends. This reinforces the mindset of “entitlement” especially when the girl is told to “either put out or get out.” This behavior of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual touching of girls is an expected part of their passage to manhood.[3] Sadly, none of this behavior is talked about by peers or adults as abusive.According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly all of the offenders in sexual assaults reported to law enforcement are male (96%)The age with the greatest number of offenders is 14-years-old. And, 40% of the offenders abusing children under the age of six-years-old are themselves juveniles.[4]

So, instead of trying to teach children every game in the book to avoid child molesters, efforts would be better expended to change the mindset of boys and men by promoting skills in healthy, intimate behaviors. This is a tall order because they are bombarded by messages in the media that inappropriate behavior is normal.

If programs in school focused on the development of healthy friendships, and then as students got older, healthy romantic relationships, we might see a change in sexually abusive behavior. Of course, for those boys who are being mentally, physically, and/or sexually abused at home, that adds another layer to the problem.

The bottom line is to target the offenders, not the victims. This is where more emphasis should be placed to stop child abuse and neglect.


[1] Herman, J.L. (1990), Sex Offenders: A feminist perspective. In W.L. Marshall, D.R. Laws & H.E. Barbaree (Eds.), Handbook of sexual assault:  Issues, theories, and treatment of the offender (pp. 177-194). New York: Plenum Press.

[2] “Child Sexual Abuse:  Prevention or Promotion? R. M. Bolen, Ph.D., National Association of Social Workers, 2003.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics,” U.S. Department of Justice, July 2000.

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