Prevention Education

Prevention starts at home.
We know that education about child sexual abuse can only take us so far. It really takes skills, courage and support to intervene when a child may be in danger of being harmed, is being harmed, or discloses past harm.

Most victims, or even families, will never report child sexual abuse to any government authority or mandatory reporter.

of children who experienced sexual harm disclosed this to someone
of those disclosed to a friend
of those disclosed to an adult
of those disclosed to authorities
Latinen et al., 2018

The research on The Legacy of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Family Adversity (Donna S. Martsolf) suggests unless the narrative of child sexual abuse is challenged in a family system where it has occurred, the family is at a greater risk for re-creating a situation where a child, in the next generation, may also be harmed.

Prevention programs (often) rely on individuals or families already involved in the system which means we are only reaching a small fraction of those impacted by child sexual abuse. Educational programs raise awareness, but intervening is far more difficult.

Our Response

Active Prevention Program

Hidden Water is currently developing our Active Prevention Program. This innovative curriculum will be a unique approach to prevention by focusing on the family - where the vast majority of children are harmed. This program will be delivered in circle and sustained in community.
waves of rainbow-colored watercolor lines

We call it "In the Water" education.

One of three core goals of our prevention program is to overcome what we call the "ick factor" - no one wants to discuss sexual harm, especially not with regard to a child. This is one of the most potent barriers to prevention; our inability to discuss it.

But in small ways, we adults can be seeping into the water important messaging about harm prevention to children, young people and other adults without overwhelming anyone with too much information at one time.

In this way, we set a culture where it is ok to speak-up about boundary crossings and interactions that make us feel uncomfortable, say "no" to being touched, and, most importantly, disclose harm, knowing that our loved ones are prepared to hold that with us.

orange watercolor petals

A compassionate intervention when boundaries are crossed.

We don't start child sexual abuse by abusing a child. There are often many preliminary experiences that lead to a would be offender toward sexual harm. People always wonder 'How could someone do that to a child?' Seen in a vacuum, it is hard to comprehend, but seen over the course of a person's life experiences, it starts to become more understandable, though not acceptable.

There are many warning signs along the way, and those are opportunities for prevention. If we intervene in a compassionate way during the warning sign phase, there is a good chance we can redirect someone who might one day harm. It takes insight, understanding and support to change a desire to harm, into a desire to protect children from sexual harm.

It makes so much sense to work with those who are in danger of causing harm, and to stop harm from ever happening, rather than reacting to it after the fact.

rows of rainbow watercolor marks

Disclosures of harm are an opportunity.

When there is only one response to any disclosures of boundary crossing or past sexual harm, namely calling child protective services and going to criminal court, we create the culture we have now. Harm boils down to being able to prove it happened with evidence (not easy) and punishment being doled out in unequal measure.

When we miss the deeper complexity of intrafamilial child sexual abuse, and disregard the nuances of each situation, we create this statistic: 88% of child sexual abuse goes unreported to authorities.

Managing the long continuum of disclosures from small interactions that make someone feel uncomfortable to actual ongoing sexual harm takes a strong grounded adult. This prevention warrior will know that each exchange must be handled with intention and appropriate emotional support. They will have an eye on safety without doing more damage to in the process.