Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Programs in Texas Public Elementary Schools

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Programs in Texas Public Elementary Schools

Article excerpt

Children are suffering high rates of sexual victimization.[1] Prevailing estimates of child sexual abuse range from 6% to 62% for females, and 3% to 13% for males.[2,3] Variations in abuse estimates occur primarily due to use of different definitions of abuse and methodological techniques such as sampling and interviewing.[4] Despite this variation, the current estimate of actual sexual victimization is reported to be at least one in four for girls, and one in 10 for boys[5] These abusive experiences can cause profound short-term and long-term effects on a child's mental health and development, 1 ultimately interfering with a child's ability to function well at home and at school.[6]

Research has confirmed that early detection of child sexual abuse is imperative to the healing process for children and their future well-being.[7,8] Child Sexual Abuse Prevention programs (CSAP) can help with early detection. The overriding goal of CSAP programs is "the prevention of the occurrence of sexual abuse, its early detection when it does occur, and the reduction in severity of emotional sequelae subsequent to its occurrence."[9]

Prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse requires a team effort which includes medical personnel, social workers, educators, and parents. Key members of the team include elementary and high school personnel with teachers, specifically, playing a significant role. Because of their long-term and continuous contact with children, teachers have a unique opportunity to observe students and to provide support, guidance, referrals, and abuse prevention materials.[8] Schools, therefore, provide a logical setting for implementing child sexual abuse prevention programs.

In all states, teachers are required by law to report suspected child sexual abuse cases to the proper authorities, such as Child Protective Services.[10] Not all schools, however, offer prevention programs to educate students, teachers, staff, and parents about child sexual abuse. Often, curriculum guides and resources are too expensive for schools and districts to purchase.[11] Moreover, there may be insufficient personnel and volunteers available, or the community may lack understanding about the importance of child sexual abuse prevention.

In Texas, state law requires teachers to report suspected cases of child sexual abuse to Child Protective Services,[12] and schools are required to implement general child abuse antivictimization programs in elementary and secondary schools.[13] Yet, many Texas schools may not implement specific prevention programs due to lack of knowledge about the prevalence of child sexual abuse, lack of funds, or lack of personnel to implement a prevention program. How many Texas schools implement child sexual abuse prevention programs, the content of those programs, and the level of training available to personnel presenting those programs are not clearly understood. Further, prevention programs often are implemented but not independently evaluated,[11] and Texas is no exception.

To determine the nature and extent of child sexual abuse prevention programs, this survey assessed the elementary school child sexual abuse prevention programs in 89 of the largest public school districts in Texas.

SURVEY PLANNING

The survey was conducted during the 1996-97 public school academic year to determine if selected school districts in Texas offer established child sexual abuse prevention programs for elementary schools, and to examine types of programs being implemented, involvement of local agencies, training available for faculty and staff, type of evaluation used, and the degree to which funding was being used to implement the programs.

Survey Design

One hundred of the largest school districts in Texas were selected for the survey. Larger school districts were selected over smaller ones because funding to school districts relates directly to district size. …

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