Our call for a collaborative, coordinated and determined national response
We know that child sexual abuse is prevalent in the UK and the impact on a child can be devastating. As well as causing incalculable personal costs, there is a social and economic cost. But child sexual abuse is also preventable.
Framing child sexual abuse as a public health problem makes prevention a priority.
This report provides evidence and recommendations on how to prevent child sexual abuse. It provides the basis for starting a discussion about what a national public health strategy for prevention should look like in England.
Authors: Jon Brown and Aliya Saied-Tessier
A public health problem
- Child sexual abuse is a public health problem because:
- it’s prevalent in the UK
- it’s preventable
- there’s an economic cost to society.
- When we view child sexual abuse as a public health problem it becomes clear that prevention must be a priority.
- Prevention is about changing behaviour. It’s not just about giving out information.
- Public health approaches focused on prevention have helped to create social change before, for example reducing the spread of HIV, warning about drink driving.
- Taking action using a public health approach will need effort across all levels of society.
Evidence for effective interventions to prevent child sexual abuse
- Prevention programmes must be grounded in theory and evidence.
- Evidence-based interventions will avoid programmes based on outdated, inaccurate views about the characteristics of abusers and it avoids placing the burden of responsibility for preventing sexual abuse on children.
- Theories on child sexual abuse describe different pathways to offending and different types of offender. This implies we need different interventions to prevent individuals from committing child sexual abuse. A one size fits all approach will not be effective.
- There is a substantial amount of knowledge about programmes that work effectively.
- Gaps in our knowledge about prevention and areas where further investigation is needed include how to:
- provide support and guidance for professionals about how to deal with all aspects of child sexual abuse
- help adults and young people who have not yet committed abuse but are struggling with their feelings
- deal with sexual abuse that occurs within the family
- make information about staying safe easier to access for children with disabilities or learning difficulties
- run community level programmes – we know community engagement and local action are vital.
- Child sexual abuse prevention programmes must include online safety.
This report presents a starting list of actions grounded in evidence for different groups across society.
New calls for action include:
- government to fund a 24/7 helpline for people concerned they may sexually abuse children or young people. This would be an extension of the existing Stop it Now! helpline
- government to fund a National Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Resource Centre.
"Educate and spread the word that this [sexual violence] is not okay."
Young person's view on what they would do to prevent sexual violence
Please cite as: Brown, J. and Saied-Tessier, A. (2015) Preventing child sexual abuse: towards a national strategy for England. London: NSPCC.