Answering the Prevention Gap

Preventing child sexual abuse is not a matter of reforming a system that works poorly or even replacing a system that is addressing the issue: there has never been a system for preventing child sexual abuse.

Graphic image of baby in a teal outfit holding a orange ball and a pacifier
What we think of and call prevention in our society does not actually prevent child sexual abuse.

Instead, it is a series of responses/reactions through systems and agencies: mandatory reporting, education programs in schools (focused mainly on teaching children to report forbidden acts), offender management (diversion programs for those who have already harmed), and extraction/punishment meted out by the criminal justice system.

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Re-examining what it means to truly prevent child sexual abuse requires a framework that acknowledges systemic responses as violent and oppressive, as well as the individual, social, economic, and political conditions that contribute to specific instances of childhood sexual abuse.

What We KnowWhat This Means to JBC
At least 50% of those who experience CSA do not report (Collin-Vézina et al., 2013)We are missing at least half of the picture.
At least 30% of those who sexually abuse children are minors (Collin-Vézina et al., 2013)“We do not first enter violence by committing it.” Yet, children who harm are criminalized.
62% of help seekers who had a report made about them said that the report made the situation worse (Lippy et al., 2016)Even when systems intervene, they cause more harm.

Collin-Vézina, D., Daigneault, I., & Hébert, M. (2013). Lessons learned from child sexual abuse research: Prevalence, outcomes, and preventive strategies. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 7(1), 22.

Lippy, C., Burk, C. & Hobart, M. (2016). “There’s no one I can trust”: The impacts of mandatory reporting on the help-seeking and well-being of domestic violence survivors. A report of the National LGBTQ DV Capacity Building Learning Center. Seattle, WA.


Abolitionist feminism and transformative justice allow us a way into building prevention in partnership

Abolitionist Feminism

Abolitionist feminism invites us to consider a world without prisons and how to build it. This way of thinking focuses our attention on developing stronger communities and bringing about gender, racial, and economic justice. Abolitionist feminism helps us unpack the interpersonal and individual effects of oppression and trauma in our lives as part of the process of doing societal, social, and community-level change work.

Conventional approaches for addressing violence rely on solutions within the criminal/retributive justice system. These solutions avoid the issues that actually contribute to violence, and in doing so keep harmful systems intact. We need to consider the wider harms this approach causes for communities that are already over-criminalized and for whom institutions are primary perpetrators of violence. Abolitionist feminism involves the twin action of amplifying alternative strategies for addressing these structural harms as we also dismantle them.

Guiding principles include:

  • A social justice rather than criminal justice perspective
  • Connections between state and interpersonal violence
  • Alternative strategies for addressing these harms

Transformative Justice

We define transformative justice as a set of practices for preventing and ending violence through relationships rather than systems. Transformative justice approaches recognize that interpersonal harm is rooted in conditions of oppression (poverty, racism, homophobia, sexism, ableism, anti-immigrant, ageism, etc.) and that systemic responses perpetuate these conditions, resulting in further violence and harm. The implementation of transformative justice enables us to collectively build relationships and communities that can prevent and intervene in violence without reinforcing oppressive norms.

Guiding principles include:

  • Survivor safety, healing, and agency
  • Accountability and transformation for those who cause harm
  • Community response and accountability
  • Transformation of the social conditions that create and perpetuate violence
Graphic image of young person with hills and leaves