Instead of addressing the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) as a public health problem that has causes and can be prevented — which it can — we are in a constant state of reaction that never gets us ahead of the problem. The Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, is doing the research that will inform prevention measures and spark policy-makers to take a public health approach to ending child sexual abuse, which includes the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Federal, state and city governments willing to commit long-term resources to the development, testing and dissemination of evidenced based prevention strategies that actually lead to reducing the risks our children face are also needed. Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have convened a hearing on the state of sex trafficking and the role of child welfare agencies, who will almost certainly play a crucial role in prevention given the vulnerability of children in foster care to sexual abuse, including CSEC, and to other forms of harm. This hearing bodes well for the type of coordinated federal and state response needed to effectively address CSEC in this country.
Child sexual abuse — from the rare cases that involve long-term kidnappings or worse at the hands of strangers, to the far more common cases of abuse perpetrated by family members and friends — is preventable. But until our governments, researchers and practitioners are partnering to address this as a public health issue, our only course of action will be to wait and respond to the next horrible incident. And when it happens, we’ll wonder the same thing we always do: how could we have prevented this?
Learn more at Dr. Elizabeth J. Letourneau’s The Hill article: Government moves to address domestic child sex trafficking.