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How to reduce the prevalence of child sexual abuse

How to reduce the prevalence of child sexual abuse? A far different approach to the prevention of child sexual abuse is needed. Current school-based programs target children by teaching them skills to deflect the approaches of potential offenders. Yet, the literature presented in this book suggests that the current methods of prevention simply do not work. First, there is no evidence to support the notion that abuse prevalence has been reduced during the nearly 20-year history of the prevention programs (Bolen, in press). Second, the pervasiveness and omnipresence of the threat to children is so great that no amount of training can prepare them for the numerous approaches of both filial and nonfilial offenders in a multitude of locations. The pervasiveness of the threat of sexual abuse suggests that only by targeting potential offenders and sociocultural norms that support an abuse-prone culture can the epidemic of child sexual abuse be reduced (Bolen, in press). Thus, preventing child sexual abuse requires a realignment of existing sociocultural structures that allow abuse to thrive. One of the most important of these is the male sex role. Indeed, ours is a society in which males are encouraged to have younger, less experienced partners. Our society is also one “that encourages predatory male sexuality, that sexualizes all intimacy, and that fosters male irresponsibility towards children” (Finkelhor, 1990b, p. 389). If effective programs can be developed that target the redefinition of the male sex role and thus the reduction of offending behavior, then for the first time in modern history we may be able to consider the possibility of significantly reducing the prevalence of child sexual abuse.

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