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effective future response to child sexual abuse

effective future response to child sexual abuse All recommendations in the previous section related to changes that could be made
within the child protection system. On the other hand, it is generally acknowledged
that an effective response to child sexual abuse will require major structural change.
As noted earlier, the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect recommended
the “replacement of the existing child protection system” (Schene, 1996, p. 386).
One of the most essential steps needed for moving toward an effective future
response to child sexual abuse is to form a task force or think tank whose task it is to
consider how the problem of child sexual abuse can be effectively targeted. This task
force should have the lassitude to think creatively and independently, for confined to
the current structure, such an endeavor would be doomed. As its primary goal, this
task force should reach a consensus on the future response to the problem of child
sexual abuse. Questions that might need to be answered to reform the child protection
system are as follows.
• How can all victims of child sexual abuse be effectively identified?
• How can investigation be sensitive both in cases in which abuse has occurred and in
those in which the suspicion was not founded?
• How can we respond sensitively to the victims and their families, collaborating with the
nonoffending guardians instead of considering them adversaries?
• How can we remove the burden for protection from nonoffending guardians and place
it on law enforcement and the offenders?
• How can we maintain and protect children in their homes after disclosure?
• How can’ we bring resources to nonoffending guardians and their families that reduce
stressors, thus increasing their ability to cope effectively and to be more supportive of
their child?
• How can we provide access to treatment for all family members who need it?
• How can we develop strengths-based treatment modalities for nonoffending guardians?
• How can we ensure access of the nonoffending guardians to their removed children?
• How can we maintain the safety and wellbeing of the removed children?
• How can necessary interventions reduce anxiety experienced by victims?
• How can we intervene with all identified offenders?
• How can the courts protect the rights of the victims and their families with the same
vigor that they protect the rights of the accused?
• How can we effectively identify and treat sexually aggressive children and adolescents?
• How can we effectively target some of the sociocultural factors that create an environment
in which child sexual abuse thrives?
• How can we effectively target the reduction of offending behaviors?
Because of the many questions that need to be addressed, members of this task
force should represent many different disciplines, philosophies, and orientations.
There are many outstanding professionals in this field working towards a better future
for our children. Some work inside the system, whereas others work outside the
system, yet both offer essential views for this forward-thinking task. As a young field,
many of its leaders have worked in it since the early 1980s and sometimes earlier.
They would bring the history and the voice of experience to this task force. We
should also not forget those new thinkers who have come into the field more recently
and who perhaps have a different view. They also have much to offer.
There are also the many different perspectives that should have a voice within
this task force. One of the most important groups may be the feminists with their
essential understanding of sociocultural effects of living within a patriarchal world.
Theirs is a voice that cannot be diminished at this table. Other voices that should be
heard are the empiricists, the developmentalists, the sociologists who understand the
trends within society, the policy analysts, and the legal experts who can offer guidance
on the bounds of the law. Bringing together the voices of the protagonists and
antagonists is also important. There are so many who should be at this table, including
those who represent the different cultures and socioeconomic groups. Their special
task is to ensure that the ideas brought forward from this group are sensitive to the
needs of all families and all children.
Perhaps the most essential voice at this table, however, is that of the survivors.
The backlash has gone far to silence their voices, returning in many ways to the days
of psychoanalytic thought in which victims who dared to disclose were considered to
be as guilty as—indeed more guilty than—the offender. Yet, their perspective and
experience with the system are critical to developing an effective response. Adult
survivors of childhood sexual abuse who were never identified as victims, as well as
those who were identified, offer critical perspectives. Nonoffending guardians can also
speak for youthful victims identified by the system. Their often harsh experiences within the system offer important lessons. Thus, the voices of the victims and their
loved ones must be lifted up within this task force.
With this task force comprised of some of the best minds in the country and
focused on the task of developing a future response to the problem of child sexual
abuse, we will then have a model with which to move forward. The next task of this
or an equivalent task force is then to determine steps for making the transition from
the current system to the new system. Needless to say, this is as critical as the
forward-thinking task of the previous group. While this is a process that will take
time, it is a necessary process for ensuring a system that works.

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