Sexual abuse: Prevention measures should be directed primarily at adults

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The following aspects are – as shown in existing studies for an overview see [27,28] – the hallmarks of a successful prevention program:

–  Prevention measures are directed primarily at adults and only secondarily at children and youth; this puts the responsibility for the protection of minors from sexual abuse squarely in the hands of adults.

–  Prevention measures are implemented infrequent, short, and regular intervals.

–  Prevention measures employ appropriate language; it is important to provide compact information that is easily understandable, specific and comprehensive and which does not ask too much of the target group.

–  In the case of children, relevant questions include if and to what extent they have had sex education.

–  Both girls and boys are equally and equivalently seen as potential victims.

Types of prevention programs and their effectiveness

Over the course of time, numerous prevention programs for the protection of minors from sexual abuse have been developed. These programs show that in most cases it is not sufficient to educate minors in order to prevent sexual abuse. Truly effective primary prevention not only means that everything is being done to minimize the number of sexual criminal offenses; it also includes broadly disseminating information to the general public and corresponding actions. While public awareness of childhood sexual abuse in the society at large and also in Church contexts has increased significantly over the past few years in North America and in Western and Central Europe, many societal groups, countries, and cultures are still lacking information on the issue, especially with regard to prevention. The task then consists in not only providing information but also in developing prevention strategies and programs, in implementing them and in evaluating their effectiveness within the respective cultures and contexts. Prevention programs are directed either primarily to minors or to adults.

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