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Evidence that the sexual abuse of children is universally widespread, and is most frequently perpetrated by family members, neighbours and others known to the child or adolescent is indisputable. Studies have consistently found that victims are vulnerable to subsequent sexual revictimization in adolescence and adulthood. They are also more likely than non-victims to engage in potentially harmful and damaging high-risk sexual behaviours, such as early age at first intercourse, multiple partners, low contraception use and prostitution. Ecological models, which incorporate explanations at the individual, family, community and societal level help explain this link. Interventions in the area of prevention of child sexual abuse have not kept pace with international policy guidelines. Preliminary attempts at mass media campaigns and school-based prevention programmes have shown some improvements in the increase of knowledge and, to a more limited degree, the acquisition of skills. As yet, there is no evidence that such interventions have prevented sexual abuse from occurring in the first place. However, broad-based prevention programmes aimed at preventing child maltreatment in general (as opposed to child sexual abuse in particular) may have something to offer in informing child sexual abuse prevention programmes. There is considerable evidence to support the use of various therapeutic modalities in intervening with children and families following the experience of child sexual abuse. However, researchers have identified significant methodological limitations in the extant research literature that impede the making of recommendations for implementing existing therapeutic programmes unreservedly.
Lalor, K. & McElvaney, R. (2008). Intrafamilial child sexual abuse, links to subsequent sexual exploitation and prevention/treatment programmes: a literature review. Working paper prepared for ISPCAN (International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) as part of ISPCAN’s submission to 3rd World Congress against the Sexual Exploitation of Children.