Preventing and Responding to Child Sexual Abuse: Organizational Efforts

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Child Abuse & Neglect

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Background: Child sexual abuse (CSA) remains an ongoing threat to the wellbeing of children who might be victimized, to the liberty of individuals who might engage in abusive behavior, and to the reputations and livelihood of organizations in which abuse might occur. In the U.S., millions of children participate in youth-serving organizations (YSOs), and it is known that a proportion of CSA occurs in these settings. Despite the severity of these threats, there is little knowledge of the steps that organizations take to prevent and respond to CSA.

Objective: Our study aimed to index current measures to prevent and respond to CSA in organizational settings, using four of the largest U.S.-based YSOs as exemplars.

Methods: In partnership with our partner YSOs, we completed a qualitative analysis of 74 organizational documents including written policies, codes of conduct, trainings, and other documents that formalize these four organizations’ current CSA prevention and intervention efforts.

Results: These organizations collectively implement hundreds of distinct measures aimed at preventing, detecting, and responding to CSA. These measures were categorized under eight overarching themes, including: overall commitment to child safety, code of conduct, training and education, assessment, implementation and monitoring, screening and hiring, reporting and responding to child sexual abuse, youth problem sexual behavior, and boundaries for teen leaders and young adult staff.

Conclusion: Findings from the current study, outlining key prevention and policy areas undertaken by participating YSOs, offer a starting point for discussion about core elements needed to keep children safe from sexual abuse in YSO settings.


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