been secondary and tertiary in nature, in that they are reactionary and only offer solutions to the
problem after it happens.
281 Focusing on primary interventions would address the attitudes and
behaviors that govern sexual abuse of children to stop it before it begins.
Primary interventions may include public education about child sexual abuse, such as
explaining the difference between “good touching” and “bad touching” to children.
283 This type
of educational effort could help remove the taboo of talking about sex when children become
naturally curious and help them feel safe coming forward when they are being exploited in some
way. In the early to mid-1980s, schools across America implemented educational programs
focusing on teaching children about appropriate relationships with adults.
284 The current rate of
these school-based programs is unknown, but schools likely shifted their focus away from
childhood sexual abuse as they began educating students about other concerns, such as bullying
and dating violence.
285 Researchers are in agreement, generally, that not enough evidence exists
to support the efficacy or inefficacy of such programs.
286 What is known, however, is that these
programs strengthen the protective factors that children have against abuse because they learn
what sexual abuse is and how to report it to adults.
287 Additionally, because juveniles are
oftentimes the ones actually perpetrating sexual abuse, education could be a particularly powerful
In addition to educational programming, there is a need to educate not only children, but
also parents and communities. Parents, teachers, and professionals who interact with children can
learn more about signs of abuse and how to respond if they suspect a child is being abused.
Social workers and law enforcement officers could help educate communities about the signs of
abuse and how to speak to children when they suspect abuse. If the general public began focusing
more attention on preventing child abuse, the shame that victims feel could potentially be
transformed into something they feel comfortable coming forward and reporting.
B. Behavior and Family Therapy
Another type of intervention that has proved to be successful is behavior therapy for
sexual offenders. Although this type of response is more reactionary than educational campaigns,
it can help rehabilitate juvenile offenders and prevent future abuse.
291 This type of therapy
focuses on helping perpetrators change their thought patterns and manage their impulsivity.
Focusing on treating existing and known abusers could potentially help prevent future abuse of
281 Janus & Polachek, supra note 6, at 167.
284 Wurtele, supra note 280, at 3.
285 Id. at 4; Educate About Bullying,
STOPBULLYING.GOV, http://www.stopbullying.gov/prevention/at-school/educate/index.html (last
visited Mar. 16, 2014) (providing educational materials for teachers and general information about teaching children about bullying at
286 Wurtele, supra note 280, at 5–6.
287 Christopher Mikton & Alexander Butchart, Child Maltreatment Prevention: A Systematic Review of Reviews, 87 BULL. WORLD
HEALTH ORG. 353, 354 (2009), available at
http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/87/5/08-057075.pdf. Most of these programs “teach
children about body ownership, the difference between good and bad touch, and how to recognize abusive situations, say no, and
disclose abuse to a trusted adult.” Id.
288 Finkelhor, supra note 17, at 172.
289 Wurtele, supra note 280, at 9–14. Some programs now include take-home educational material or follow-up assignments for
parents. Id. at 9. Potential ways of reaching parents and educators include hosting brown-bag lunches or employer sponsored trainings,
or groups at parenting centers, libraries, religious institutions, homes in the communities, or medical establishments. Id. at 11.
290 Id. at 12–13.
291 Finkelhor, supra note 17, at 177; Levenson, supra note 85. Some experiments have failed to find a difference in recidivism
between those offenders who completed therapy and those who did not. Id. However, others found a forty percent decrease in the rate
of sexual re-offense after completion of therapy. Id.
292 Levenson, supra note 85; ILL. JUVENILE JUSTICE COMM’N, supra note 185, at 34 (noting that cognitive behavioral treatments use
“modeling, practice and positive reinforcement to change thinking patterns and improve skills and behaviors”).