Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a serious public health problem that increases risk for physical and mental health problems across the life course. Young adolescents are responsible for a substantial portion of CSA offending, yet to our knowledge, no validated prevention programs that target CSA perpetration by youth exist. Most existing efforts to address CSA rely on reactive criminal justice policies or programs that teach children to protect themselves; neither approach is well validated. Given the high rates of desistance from sexual offending following a youth’s first CSA-related adjudication, it seems plausible that many youth could be prevented from engaging in their first offense. The goal of this article is to examine how school-based universal prevention programs might be used to prevent CSA perpetrated by adolescents. We review the literature on risk and protective factors for CSA perpetration and identify several promising factors to target in an intervention. We also summarize the literature on programs that have been effective at preventing adolescent dating violence and other serious problem behaviors. Finally, we describe a new CSA prevention program under development and early evaluation and make recommendations for program design characteristics, including unambiguous messaging, parental involvement, multisession dosage, skills practice, and bystander considerations.
- child sexual abuse
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology