Preventing the Development

of Sexually Abusive Behaviors
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}ane F. uilgun, Ph.B., LICSW

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}ane F. uilgun, Ph.B., LICSW, is a piofessoi, School of Social Woik, 0niveisity of
Ninnesota, Twin Cities, 0SA. Piofessoi uilgun has books, aiticles, anu chiluien's stoiies
available on Amazon Kinule,¡piofessoijane,,¡jgilgun anu othei on-line bookselleis.
Preventing the Development
of Sexually Abusive Behaviors
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ievention of sexually abusive behaviois is in the foiefiont of public uiscussions
touay. The costs of committing sex offenueis to inuefinite uetention is uiaining
public buugets anu taking funus away fiom euucation anu public safety. Foi the
public goou, iesouices must shift to pievention anu not iemain focuseu on uetention. If we
continue on the cuiient couise, we will keep on piouucing sex offenueis.
Pievention incluues pieventing the uevelopment of sexually abusive behaviois in
the fiist place. Sexual abuseis weie chiluien once. They aie not boin as sexual abuseis.
They leain to abuse chiluien sexually. This leaining begins in chiluhoou. They leain that
sexual behaviois with chiluien feel goou, lift theii moou, oi make them feel loveu. They
leain to be self-centeieu anu self-absoibeu. They uo not caie what the chiluien want. They
have pooi executive skills. They leain to be emotionally uetacheu fiom otheis. They leain
the beliefs that leau them to abuse chiluien.
Nost 0.S.-baseu chilu sexual abuse pievention piogiams teach chiluien how to
avoiu being sexually abuseu. As impoitant as chiluien's self-piotection is, this places fai too
much iesponsibility on chiluien, allows auults not to take iesponsibility foi piotecting
chiluien, anu ignoies those who tiuly aie iesponsible: peipetiatois. The focus of
pievention must be on the pievention of sexually abusive behaviois in the fiist place. Chilu
sexual abuse is pieventable. Auults have the iesponsibility foi pievention.
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The chief factoi that appeais to piotect chiluien fiom becoming peipetiatois of
chilu sexual abuse is emotional expiessiveness. When chiluien, auolescents, anu auults
have capacities foi emotional expiessiveness, this means they
• have expeiienceu sensitive, iesponsive, anu contingently iecipiocal ielationships
with othei people ovei time, typically with theii paients anu also with otheis; This
shows a histoiy of secuie attachments;
• Can expeiience, iuentify, anu expiess appiopiiately a iange of feelings;
• 0nueistanu anu iuentify with (empathize with) the emotions of otheis;
• Encouiage the healthy emotional expiession of otheis; anu
• Bave goou executive skills as shown by theii flexible thinking anu pioblem-solving
abilities that incluues capacities foi consiueiing alteinative anu foi thinking thiough
consequences of theii actions.
When inuiviuuals have capacities foi emotional expiessiveness, histoiies of secuie
attachments, anu goou executive skills, they iealize that acting without consiueiing the
effects on otheis may huit otheis anu is unfaii. When they aie stiesseu, anxious, anu angiy,
they engage theii executive skills anu seek pio-social ways of coping, such as talking to
otheis, consiueiing alteinative actions anu the consequences of these actions, anu any
numbei of othei stiategies uiscusseu in this book. They uo not use chiluien to "fix" how
they feel, as uo many peipetiatois of chilu sexual abuse. In shoit, they ie-iegulate in pio-
social ways. They iesist pio-violence influences to which they have been exposeu because
they have the emotional iesouices anu executive skills to uo so.
Some peipetiatois uo not abuse chiluien as a means to ie-iegulate. These abuseis
abuse simply because abuse makes them feel goou. Such abuseis have obvious ueficits in
theii emotional uevelopment anu executive skills. They aie unable to unueistanu anu
empathize with the emotions anu iights of otheis. They uo not have the executive skills to
see the haim they inflict when they use chiluien sexually. What they want ovei-iiues any
consiueiation of effects on chiluien. They absoib pio-violence beliefs because they uo not
have the emotional iesouices anu executive skills necessaiy to see how haimful these
beliefs aie.
Nany peipetiatois pioviue viviu poitiaits of theii paients as emotionally
insensitive anu non-iesponsive. 0thei peipetiatois may have hau "goou enough" paients,
but they still abuse chiluien. Some peipetiatois, howevei, aie unable to pioviue
ieseaicheis anu piactitioneis with the fine uetails of the ielationships with paients anu
otheis. Some paint bioau biush stiokes in teims of theii paients' anu siblings' auequacy,
such as spenuing time with them anu going to chuich with them, anu they uo not tell any
stoiies that showeu they abuseu oi neglecteu them oi weie otheiwise insensitive anu non-
What may happen in these cases is that paients have been peimissive, anu not
authoiitative. Authoiitative paients combine unconuitional love, cleai iules, simple
iewaius foi following iules, anu appiopiiate penalties foi bieaking iules.
Since some peipetiatois aie unable to pioviue the uetails neeueu to uiaw uiiect
conclusions anu because they show an incieuible insensitivity anu lack of iesponsiveness
themselves, the logical conclusion is that they uiu not expeiience theii paients as sensitive
anu iesponsive anu uiu not as a iesult uevelop these capacities themselves. This uoes not
mean that theii paients hau no capacities foi emotional iesponsiveness. It uoes mean that
some peipetiatois as chiluien weie unable to iesponu to whatevei paients anu otheis
weie able to offei them that might have helpeu them to uevelop emotionally anu to uevelop
goou executive skills.
In geneial, boys aie at a uisauvantage as compaieu to giils in theii oppoitunities foi
optimal emotional uevelopment anu foi the acquisition of goou executive skills in
inteipeisonal ielationships. uenuei has a iole to play in unueistanuing anu pieventing
chilu sexual abuse. Boys anu men peipetiate up to 9u% of all sexual abuse. Boys anu men
aie taught to be stiong anu to be foithiight anu even aggiessive about puisuing what they
want. They aie socializeu to be silent anu even ashameu of emotions that might suggest
vulneiability. They leain that otheis may call them "sissies," "giils," "fems," "punks," anu
"gays" if they show sauness, shame, huit feelings, neeu foi comfoit, anu feai.
Bogs anu hoises aie like that, too. They hiue theii vulneiabilities because
vulneiabilities enuangei the pack oi the heiu by attiacting pieuatois. Biuing vulneiability
may be ielateu to a "waiiioi" mentality, wheie men have to be stiong at all times to fulfill
theii ioles as conqueiois, piotectois, anu piocuieis of bounty. If they fail in these ioles,
they iisk swift anu haish consequences.
Because of genuei-baseu socialization, boys aie less likely than giils to seek otheis
out to woik thiough theii feais, woiiies, anu vulneiabilities. 0vei time, they become inept
at hanuling these emotions constiuctively anu also iisk not to uevelop theii executive skills
to think thiough how to cope with, auapt to, anu oveicome stiong emotions. Some uistance
themselves fiom theii emotions anu may even cease to feel them.
As a iesult, they finu it uifficult if not impossible to iuentify with anu be
compassionate towaiu the emotions of otheis anu to be conceineu with how theii sexual
abuse affects chiluien. Nany peipetiatois show this piofounu emotional insensitivity anu
lack of imagination associateu with stunteu executive skills.
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violence, which involves actions that huit otheis anu that benefit peipetiatois,
stanus foi a class of behaviois that ovei-value one's own inteiest anu uiscount the woith,
wishes, iights, anu autonomy of otheis. In eveiyuay life, chiluien ioutinely witness physical
violence as well as othei actions that uiscount otheis. violence anu uiscounting comes to
them in many foims, thiough auveitisements, comic books, television shows, toys, the
Inteinet, anu viueo anu computei games. The violence may be sexual as well as physical.
Nen of action peipetiate violence against "weakei" men anu women. These meuia
glamoiize violence anu show its iewaius.
Chiluien who giow up in safe, sensitive, anu iesponsive families anu communities
aie exposeu to these influences, as aie chiluien who giow up in families anu communities
wheie violence is ioutine anu an eveiyuay occuiience. These chiluien leain that vaiious
types of violence offei suivival, status, mateiial iewaius, anu self-enhancement.
Chiluien who have secuie attachments have oppoitunities to piocess the violent
anu othei uiscounting behaviois they witness. They leain fiom uiiect instiuction not to
huit otheis. Paients anu otheis mouel anu teach appiopiiate ways of expiessing
themselves anu getting what they want. Theii paients anu otheis aie theie foi them to
show them that violence huits othei people. Such chiluien aie at ielatively low iisk to
inteinalize the pio-violence beliefs anu actions to which they aie exposeu.
The lessons of violence uo not become pait of theii innei woiking mouels of
themselves, otheis, anu how the woilu woiks. These inuiviuuals giow into auults who say
"The thought nevei ciosseu my minu" when askeu why they have nevei sexually abuseu
chiluien. They say the same thing when askeu about iape. Some may aumit that they
sometimes say such woius as, "I am so angiy I coulu kill him oi hei." They sometimes have
violent thoughts anu emotions. They uo not act on these thoughts anu emotions because
they have automatic piotective iesponses that help them to iealize that such actions huit
otheis anu themselves.
Bowevei, if chiluien's innei lanuscape matches the outei lanuscape of the violence
anu uiscounting to which they aie exposeu, chiluien aie moie likely to believe that violence
anu uiscounting aie not only peimissible but obligatoiy if they aie to have self iespect anu
aie to piotect themselves. Since violence is heavily genueieu, boys aie moie likely to
iuentify with aggiessois anu believe they shoulu be aggiessive themselves. Entitlement to
take what they want becomes pait of theii innei woiking mouels. If they uiscovei that sex
with chiluien feels goou to them, they take what they want.
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Chiluien who have been sexualizeu thiough sexual abuse oi exposuie to sexual
enviionments iequiie special caie. Sensitive, iesponsive auults must ensuie that chilu
suivivois ieceive piofessional help in oiuei to woik thiough the effects of being sexually
abuseu. Some peipetiatois become sexualizeu at young ages. They act out with othei
chiluien as young chiluien. They peipetiate against chiluien in vaiious ways thioughout
theii lives. Bau theii sexual abuse come to light at the time it happeneu, he woulu not have
been a life-long abusei.
At the othei enu of a continuum aie chiluien who aie sexualizeu thiough sexual
abuse while pie-schooleis anu who have such iisk pile-ups, incluuing neuiological issues,
that the only way public authoiities knew to keep them anu chiluien aiounu them safe was
to place them in iesiuential tieatment. Noie of these chiluien may be able to stay in the
community hau theii paients unueigone theiapy foi theii own histoiies of abuse.
Such paients, theiefoie, aie unable to pioviue theii chiluien with the stable,
pieuictable, anu safe enviionment chiluien iequiie. In fact, theii lifestyles may expose
them to multiple iisks that leau to seiious behavioial pioblems. Chiluien with neuiological
issues can be uifficult to iaise, exposuie to long-teim anu multiple iisks aie highly
Nany chiluien in the 0niteu States have expeiienceu multiple auveisities that no
one helps them with. Some chiluien with multiple iisks uo not have neuiological issues.
This is an auvantage because it is one less auveisity with which chiluien anu theii families
must ueal. If theii paients woik thiough theii own histoiies of tiauma anu become
sensitive anu iesponsive, theie is hope that the chiluien can woik thiough the effects of
multiple iisks anu uo not become sexual abuseis foi theii lifetimes.
If paients iefuse to ueal with theii own histoiies of tiauma anu aie unable to piotect
theii chiluien fiom many othei auveisities that become iisk factois foi sexually acting out,
then chiluien aie on theii way to being life-long sexual abuseis, as is the case foi many
In some cases, chilu piotection local authoiities step in anu biing cases to couit
when conceins aie high foi chiluien's well-being. Social seivice agencies may iecommenu
fostei caie anu auoption, anu the couits may agiee. In such cases, theie is hope that fostei
anu auoptive paients can pioviue the safety, stiuctuie, anu love that chiluien iequiie in
oiuei to leain to cope with, auapt to, anu oveicome multiple iisks associateu with sexually
abusing chiluien anu othei uestiuctive outcomes.
Eveiyone has a pait to play in pievention. 0ui social system is complex. 0ui
iesponses, theiefoie, have to be on many uiffeient levels that ieflect not only the
complexity of oui social oiganization but also the complexity of the influences that leau to
the sexual abuse of chiluien. Pievention of chilu sexual abuse iequiies actions on the
inuiviuual, familial, community, statewiue, countiywiue, anu inteinational levels. Anything
inuiviuuals oi gioups uo to piomote chiluien's well-being contiibutes to pievention.
Something as small as a kinu woiu to a chilu oi as long-teim as auvocating foi policy anu
piogiam changes contiibute to pievention.
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The infoimation in this book pioviues a founuation foi many uiffeient kinus of
social actions that can contiibute to the pievention of the sexual abuse of chiluien. Some
policies anu piogiams aie alieauy pioviuing such seivices, often, howevei, without
iealizing how impoitant the piogiams aie to chilu sexual abuse pievention. To be moie
minuful that emotional expiessiveness, healthy sex euucations, executive skills, anu
awaieness of how iespect anu empathy contiibute to chilu sexual abuse pievention can
make these piogiams moie effective anu iesponsive. Such piogiams aie example of
univeisal oi piimaiy pieventions stiategies, oi stiategies that aie aimeu at the geneial
population. 0nfoitunately, such piogiams uo not exist in sufficient numbeis to meet the
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Selective pievention effoits taiget at-iisk inuiviuuals, meaning inuiviuuals whose
life ciicumstances anu beliefs coulu leau to auveise outcomes oi alieauy have. <%,()36.=
anu *%.*16.= '.%7%)*1() aie teims useu to uesciibe types of selective pievention. Seconuaiy
pievention involves policies anu piogiams uesigneu to piomote optimal uevelopment in
inuiviuuals at iisk foi pooi outcomes. Teitiaiy pievention involves policies anu piogiams
foi peisons how alieauy have pooi outcomes.
Examples of seconuaiy pievention aie paient euucation gioups anu othei
psychoeuucation piogiams wheie inuiviuuals ieceive infoimation anu skills tiaining that
help them to cope with, auapt to, anu oveicome the effects of theii own expeiiences of
abuse anu neglect. When paients anu otheis paiticipate successfully in these piogiams,
they become moie emotionally expiessive anu less-self-absoibeu anu theiefoie moie
sensitively iesponsive to theii own chiluien, to theii life paitneis, anu to othei people in
geneial. They also leain stiategies foi uealing with the many challenges involveu in iaising
Teitiaiy pievention involves inteiventions foi inuiviuuals, chiluien, teens, auults
anu theii families, wheie a conuition has alieauy appeaieu, such as sexually abusive
behaviois. Examples aie tieatment piogiams foi chiluien anu theii families wheie the
chiluien have been sexually abuseu oi who expeiienceu othei auveisities. These piogiams
aie uesciibeu in some uetail in chaptei twelve. Incapacitation involves iemoving
inuiviuuals fiom society anu keeping them confineu. Piison anu civil commitment aie
examples of teitiaiy pievention that involves incapacitation.
While theie aie themes that cioss ovei into uiffeient types of pievention effoits,
inuiviuualization is anothei piinciple associateu with successful seconuaiy anu teitiaiy
pievention piogiams. 0ne size uoes not fit all. When ciafting anu implementing piogiams
anu inteiventions, piofessionals who aie flexible anu who tailoi what they offei have goou
chances foi success.
Typically, effective tieatment piogiams exploie clients' capacities foi emotional
expiessiveness, sensitivity to otheis, executive skills, beliefs about entitlements anu taking
what you want, anu capacities to ueal constiuctively with stiess anu tiauma. In othei
woius, they exploie genuei-baseu beliefs, such as men as heaus of householus who have
absolute contiol ovei wives anu chiluien. Bealing with selfishness anu self-centeieuness is
pait of effective tieatment piogiams.
Effective tieatment piofessionals, howevei, aie open-minueu enough not to make
assumptions about the families of peipetiatois, noi about the expeiiences anu beliefs that
peipetiatois have that might contiibute to theii sexually abusive behaviois. Piofessionals
must uo inuiviuualizeu assessments anu be piepaieu to uevise stiategies meant to inciease
the capacities that ieseaich anu piofessional expeiience have iuentifieu as factois in the
sexual abuse of chiluien. Sensitive iesponsiveness is the centeipiece of tieatment goals, but
how piofessionals nuituie sensitive iesponsiveness in clients iequiies sensitive
iesponsiveness on theii pait.
;#7,(%AB2 *0(7$%,3( ;C,//2
As a society, we lack goou executive skills. We uo not see how accepteu beliefs anu
piactices iesult in the sexual abuse of chiluien. Paients anu piofessionals alone cannot
change the foices that leau to sexual abuse, although they uo what they can to countei
these foices within theii immeuiate spheies of influence. Society-wiue effoits aie iequiieu
foi pievention.
Seveial issues must be hanuleu well to ensuie that chiluien uo not sexually abuse
otheis. This incluues the sex euucation of chiluien, encouiaging the emotional expiession
of boys, anu challenging beliefs anu piactices that leau to the sexual abuse of chiluien. The
mass meuia, goveinment, highei euucation, anu ieligious institutions can make majoi
contiibutions to chilu sexual abuse pievention.
The Four Cornerstones of Prevention
ealthy sex euucation is one of foui coineistones of chilu sexual abuse pievention. Nost
paients iequiie a gieat ueal of encouiagement anu euucation to talk to theii chiluien
about sexuality anu sexual abuse. Local, national, anu inteinational goveinments,
founuations, school boaius, ieligious institutions, anu auvocacy gioups coulu uevelop
public awaieness campaigns to piomote healthy sex euucation in families anu in schools
anu to make euucational mateiials wiuely available. Thiough the inteinet, these gioups
coulu make viueos, poucasts, anu othei mateiials available to anyone who wants them.
Sex euucation is still contioveisial foi some, but it is time to pay attention to
ieseaich anu expeiience that shows that healthy sex euucation piomotes healthy sexual
behaviois anu ieuuces unwanteu consequences of iiiesponsible anu uninfoimeu sexual
behaviois, such as sexual haiassment, chilu sexual abuse, iape, unwanteu piegnancies anu
sex-ielateu uiseases.
The seconu coineistone is the piomotion of emotional expiessiveness in boys.
Bealthy emotional uevelopment automatically leaus to the acquisitions of goou executive
skills. This alone woulu go a long way towaiu helping chiluien oveicome a majoi iisk foi
abusing otheis. Theie coulu be a massive effoit to suppoit sensitive, iesponsive paienting.
Nany paients aie alieauy, but all paients anu theii chiluien benefit when theie aie wiuely
available iesouices foi paients that help them to maintain theii sensitive iesponsiveness.
This is an up-hill battle because of the many souices of uistoiteu uepictions of
masculinity anu femininity, the iewaius foi meeting genueieu expectations, anu the
punishments foi failing to uo so. Nany genueieu expectations inteifeie with the
uevelopment of emotional availability anu sensitivity.
As uiscusseu eailiei, theie aie many baiiieis to boys' emotion expiessions anu
many iewaius fiom them to be aggiessive anu to take what they want. Biiect uiscussion of
pio-violence beliefs anu alteinatives to these beliefs aie pait of emotion euucation. Nany of
the woius that punish boys foi not confoiming to genuei expectations, such as "sissies,"
"fem," anu "giils" aie sexist; meaning what it means to be male is uefineu as not being
female. Being female is stigmatizeu. Such genueieu stiategies of social contiol aie
A thiiu coineistone is to uevise stiategies to encouiage anu suppoit paients who
have expeiienceu tiauma to ueal with tiauma's effects. The othei coineistones÷
piomotion of emotional expiessiveness anu executive skills anu siue-spieau sex
euucation÷coulu loosen the iigiu iesistance that many paients have to uealing with theii
own issues. Tiaumatizeu paients weie tiaumatizeu chiluien once. Those who iefuse to
ueal with theii tiaumas likely ieceiveu punitive iesponses when they tiieu to talk about
theii tiaumas.
A fouith coineistone is paient euucation piogiams, which, as mentioneu, aie
alieauy available. They can, howevei, be piomoteu moie wiuely anu many moie can be
cieateu. In these piogiams, paients can leain to become moie sensitive anu iesponsive
than they might have been otheiwise. Well-piepaieu paients iaise chiluien who have
capacities associateu with the foimation of intimate ielationships with geneiational equals
anu who unueistanu anu piotect vulneiability in themselves anu otheis.
Paients, piofessionals, anu socially awaie citizens have impoitant ioles to play in
piomoting univeisal anu selective pievention piogiams. They can join task foices anu
citizen gioups, woik foi canuiuates who unueistanu what chiluien anu families neeu to
thiive, ieseaich social issues, anu lobby local, statewiue, national, anu inteinational
goveinments. Blogs, letteis to euitois, anu posting auvocacy pieces on the Inteinet aie
possibilities. volunteei woik at schools, chilucaie centeis, anu social seivice agencies aie
othei ways of contiibuting to healthy chiluien, families, anu societies. We have complex
social systems. Effective change will happen when multiple paits of systems change.
;#7,./ ;C,//2
Social skills tiaining is a pievention stiategy that many auults can implement. Social
skills tiaining can help chiluien uevelop empathy anu executive skills. Paients, euucatois,
anu otheis who spenu time with chiluien can auapt these appioaches to a vaiiety of
situations in families, classiooms, anu othei settings. They can be useu as univeisal
pievention stiategies oi selective.
Chiluien leain social skills thiough uiiect instiuction anu thiough obseiving how
otheis behave. They iepeat the behaviois that biing them iewaius anu behaviois that they
see aie iewaiueu. The following aie examples of guiuelines foi teaching chiluien social
skills. Paients anu teacheis may want to pioviue auuitional guiuelines.
Chiluien neeu to know what paients anu teacheis expect fiom them. It is impoitant
foi paients anu teacheis to set giounu iules. Keep them simple. Beie aie some examples.
Family Etiquette
• No hitting, yelling, pushing, oi biting. If someone botheis you, tell him oi hei to
• If othei chiluien continue to botheis you, tell me. It's my job to take caie of
things like that.
• If you bothei anothei chilu, you will have a time out.
• uive othei people a chance to finish talking befoie you talk.
• Bo not use othei people's stuff without theii peimission.
• If you have questions about uiffeiences between boys anu giils, ask me. Bo not
inspect the bouies of otheis, especially of chiluien youngei than you.
Classioom Etiquette
• Raise youi hanu if you want to talk in the classioom.
• Bo not inteiiupt when othei chiluien aie talking.
• Bo not inteiiupt when I am speaking.
• Stay in youi seats until I give you peimission to get up.
• Bo not push, giab, oi shove othei chiluien.
• If someone botheis you, tell him oi hei to stop.
• If someone botheis you anu will not stop when you tell them to, tell me. I will
take caie of it.
• If you bothei anothei chilu, you will have a time out.
When chiluien follow the iules, iecognize them foi it. Beie aie some examples.
• "Thank you, Naicus, foi iaising youi hanu when you wanteu to speak."
• "uoou job, Kylie. Ronalu pulleu youi haii. You tolu him to stop anu that it huit.
Be uiun't stop. You tolu me."
• "I can see you ieally wanteu to say something, }amal. uoou foi you that you
waiteu until }oiuan finisheu what she hau to say."
• "I'm glau you askeu. I'm happy to talk to you about kissing boys."
In shoit, when chiluien peifoim well in classiooms anu at home, it is impoitant to piaise
them immeuiately. Rewaius inciease the chances that chiluien will iepeat the behaviois.
8,)(7% @-2%)$7%,#-
Something as biief as 1u-minute sessions of uiiect instiuction once a week oi as
neeueu coulu have life-long benefits foi chiluien. Instiuction can cieate a safe anu
enjoyable classioom expeiience anu family life. The following aie some topics to consiuei.
• Bow to ask someone foi something.
• Bow to say "no" to someone who asks you foi something.
• Bow to accept a "no" fiom someone else.
• Bow to thank someone who uoes something nice foi you.
• Bow to uisagiee with someone.
• Bow to think about consequences of youi actions: Who will they affect. Bow will
they affect them. Bow will they affect you.
• Bow to intiouuce people to each othei.
• Bow to joke with otheis without huiting them.
• Bow to apologize.
• Bow to aumit you uiu something wiong.
• Bow to make up foi uoing something wiong.
• Bow to accept an apology.
• Bow to help anothei chilu when someone is huiting him oi hei.
• Bow to ask someone to stop uoing something that huits oi botheis you.
• Bow to ask someone foi help when someone is huiting oi botheiing you.
• Bow to listen to a fiienu who is feeling sau.
To teach these skills, fiist uesciibe the topic. Then pioviue a biief uesciiption of how
to iesponu. Then iole play in fiont of the chiluien how to iesponu. Next, have the chiluien
iole play with each othei. Bave the chiluien play both ioles. Piaise them when they iole
play well. Belp them pioblem-solve how to uo bettei if they have uifficulties in the iole
Finally, give the chiluien a few minutes to talk about the activity with each othei anu
with whoevei pioviues the instiuction. Buiing these uiscussions, teacheis have the
oppoitunity to exploie chiluien's expectations about genueieu-baseu behaviois anu
entitlements. They can bioauen the uiscussion to ask chiluien to uesciibe the kinus of
inteiactions they obseive in viueo games, on the inteinet, anu in movies.
Biiect instiuction anu uiscussion of these topics contain implicit anu explicit
messages about emotional expiessiveness, bounuaiies, iespect, anu empathy. They aie
countei messages to beliefs about entitlement anu taking what you want iegaiuless of
what otheis want.
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Bow paients anu teacheis ueal with chiluien teaches them a gieat ueal about social
skills. When what you uo makes them feel goou, they aie likely to imitate you. When they
see that you iewaiu the behaviois you want, chiluien will want those iewaius foi
themselves. Piactice goou social skills youiself, anu the chiluien will leain fiom you.
In summaiy, chiluien leain social skills fiom uiiect instiuction anu fiom
obseivation. Paients anu euucatois aie positioneu to teach chiluien skills that they will use
foi the iest of theii lives. In the shoit teim, chiluien with goou social skills contiibute to
enjoyable anu safe families anu classiooms. Social skills tiaining such as those just
uesciibeu can help chiluien uevelop goou executive skills anu emotional expiessiveness.
Teaching these skills is pait of sensitive, iesponsive paienting anu teaching. These
skills, in combination with a goou sex euucation, sensitive caie of chiluien who have
expeiienceu tiauma, anu counteiing abuse-suppoitive beliefs with pio-social beliefs, go a
long way towaiu pievention. Pieventing chiluien fiom becoming sexual abuseis is an
impoitant goal in pievention piogiams.
D(.7',-9 E#+(-%2
In eveiyuay inteiactions with chiluien, auults have oppoitunities to piomote
emotional expiessiveness anu executive skills. Chiluien can sometimes be iuue, impolite,
anu aggiessive towaiu othei chiluien anu auults. When this happens, paients anu othei
auults will be most helpful if they have balanceu ieactions. 0vei-ieacting oi uismissing the
significance of the behaviois aie common, but what counts is foi auults to engage theii own
executive skills anu to keep theii cool. Such chilu behaviois aie teaching moments.
Auults aie helpful when they ask the chilu to stop the behavioi anu name the feeling
they think the chilu is expeiiencing. 0ften that is enough. Naming a feeling foi a chilu often
calms the chilu because the chilu feels unueistoou. In calm states of minu, paients anu
euucatois can engage theii own executive skills anu talk with chiluien about how they can
hanule theii emotions moie effectively the next time.
Chiluien aie eagei to have fiienus anu to belong. To uo so, they have to leain how to
get along with otheis. Teaching chiluien how to iespectfully expiess what they want anu
uo not want oi what they like oi uo not like can leau chiluien to builu healthy ielationships.
Respect means that chiluien take into consiueiation what otheis want, they know how to
negotiate so as to finu common giounu, anu they know not to take auvantage of otheis to
get what they want.
Reminu chiluien of the iules. uently guiue them to time out if you have set time out
as the consequence foi such behaviois. Keep the time out biief. Even a minute oi two can
be long enough. The following guiuelines can help in uifficult situations with chiluien.
Reminu chiluien that all feelings aie okay, but they uo neeu to think about how they
expiess theii feelings. Expiessing themselves with iuueness anu uisiespect, with veibal
aggiession, veibal abuse, excluuing oi ignoiing, physical aggiession, oi sexual aggiession
aie not okay. Telling someone to back off oi saying, "I uon't like how you'ie behaving," oi
"Bon't speak to me that way," oi "I finu youi behaviois huitful" aie uiiect anu cleai
expiessions of feelings that uo no haim. They aie okay.
Attenu to the chilu who has been huit. Chiluien who aie iuue anu impolite huit
otheis. Chiluien who have been huit gain in self-confiuence anu self-iespect when otheis
comfoit them anu help them to figuie out how to stanu up foi themselves while also not
haiming otheis themselves.
Anothei vaiiation on acting without thinking is when chiluien anu auults, foi that
mattei, "go foi the jugulai;" that is, act without thinking when someone uoes something
they uo not like. They immeuiately become angiy anu engage "low ioau" iesponses that can
involve thinking angiy thoughts, calling otheis names, anu hitting anu kicking. Foi some,
sexual aggiession can iesult, oi sexualizeu self-soothing. Foitunately, chiluien÷anu
auults÷typically can iestiain themselves, but they also have no iuea how to engage theii
"high ioau" iesponses anu thus to negotiate with otheis to finu common giounu. They
theiefoie silence themselves. This unueimines connection anu ielationships.
Foi chiluien to be able to hanule such situations, they have to see that people
aiounu them have effective stiategies foi uoing so. They also iequiie uiiect instiuction. The
instiuction woulu incluue 1) noticing that they aie about to act without thinking, 2)
consiuei what they ieally want, S) anu think about the vaiious ways that they can get what
they want anu also maintain a healthy connection with otheis.
uuiuelines that can help in such situations incluue 1) being cleai about what they
want, 2) telling othei people what they want, S) listening to otheis in oiuei to unueistanu
what they want, anu 4) engaging in a seaich foi ways to accommouate each othei.
Sometimes what we want is unacceptable oi not possible. In those situations, chiluien neeu
to uevelop capacities to accept such possibilities, but they have the iight to know the
ieasons why ceitain things cannot happen. Chiluien eventually inteinalize paiental
guiuelines anu uiiect instiuction. They become skilleu in hanuing conflict situations. They
also know that they can go to theii paients anu othei auults if they neeu some help.
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Chiluien may sometimes neeu uiiect instiuction about theii behaviois when they uo
not iealize that theii behaviois huit otheis. It is impoitant that paients make it cleai that
some behaviois aie not alloweu. The next step is to teach behaviois that aie alloweu to
ieplace them. Foi example, you coulu say to a chilu, "When you uo that, it huits othei
people." Pioblem-solving is helpful. Bow else coulu they tell otheis what they want.
Chiluien often iesponu well to examples.
Paients anu teacheis can have a big impact in seemly small events. }anie, five, yelleu
at Sylvia, also five, "You'ie a liai" uuiing play time in kinueigaiten. Sylvia was inueeu lying.
Bowevei, the kinueigaiten teachei was so conceineu about }anie's iuueness that she gave
}anie a time out anu tolu hei to sit in the coinei behinu the gianu piano. }anie ciieu anu felt
ashameu. The teachei misseu an oppoitunity to teach }anie new social skills. She coulu
have tolu }anie, "Speaking so louuly anu calling someone a liai huits. If you uon't agiee with
Sylvia, you can say, 'I uon't agiee.' Insteau of pioviuing guiuance, the teachei's actions
piovokeu shame anu huit in this young chilu.
Few chiluien at five have the skills anu awaieness to iesponu fiimly but
empathically to someone whose behaviois concein them. Aftei the teachei's iepiimanu,
}anie still uiu not know how to expiess conceins about otheis' behaviois, but the next time
she wanteu to uisagiee she woulu iemembei hei piioi punishment. She woulu then be at
iisk to yell evei louuei, be even moie iuue, oi to say nothing anu seethe. She might even
feel guilty anu at fault foi objecting to anothei's pooi behaviois.
Sylvia, of couise, neeueu some attention anu instiuction as well. The teachei coulu
have acknowleugeu that Sylvia might have been huit by }anie's woius, anu she coulu have
tolu Sylvia that when you say something that anothei chilu uoes not believe, the chilu may
challenge you. The teachei might not have known whethei Sylvia was lying oi not, but she
coulu have helpeu Sylvia unueistanu that othei people may uisagiee with hei but they have
no iight to be iuue anu aggiessive.
Eventually, the teachei coulu have woikeu out a way to iepaii the chiluien's
ielationship. When both chiluien hau settleu uown, unueistoou what went wiong, anu felt
safe, the teachei coulu have encouiageu }anie to apologize foi hei aggiession anu also state
she uisagieeu with Sylvia. Sylvia coulu have aumitteu she uiu not tell the tiuth anu woulu
uo bettei the next time. She coulu have accepteu }anie's apology.
This kinu of guiuance takes teachei time anu skill but it is impoitant to uo. Chiluien
sometimes mistake veibal aggiession foi humoi. Something as simple as helping chiluien
unueistanu that woius huit may help chiluien iealize that they have to stop uoing
G,-./ H#)52
Chilu sexual abuse is a seiious social pioblem that unueimines the well-being anu
life chances of millions of chiluien in the 0niteu States anu woilu-wiue. Accuiate
unueistanuing of sexual abuse, sensitive iesponsiveness to chiluien, anu uiiect instiuction
about emotion expiession, iespectful behaviois, anu sexuality aie steps towaiu cieating a
moie just anu caiing society.
Fuitheimoie, social policy anu cuiient pievention piogiams uo not iecognize the
impoitance of the pievention of the uevelopment of sexually abusive behaviois. If we
continue on the cuiient couise, we will uiain public buugets to keep sex offenueis lockeu
up while we continue to uo little oi nothing to piouuce even moie sex offenueis.
Chilu sexual is a complex social pioblem that few people unueistanu well. Nyths
anu misunueistanuings leau many to believe that they uo unueistanu. What chilu anu auult
suivivois, peipetiatois, anu motheis say about chilu sexual abuse auus impoitant
uimensions to knowleuge anu pioviues a basis foi policy, pievention, anu inteivention.
Peipetiatois take auvantage of chiluien. It is that simple. Peipetiatois aie selfish. It is that
simple. Chiluien iequiie sensitive, iesponsive caie. It is that simple.
While cattle instinctively foim piotective ciicles aiounu unielateu young to waiu off
uangei, human beings allow chilu sexual abuse to continue. 0ui social systems aie moie
complicateu than that of cattle, but oui executive skills aie supeiioi to those of cattle. When
it comes to chilu sexual abuse, howevei, oui executive skills aie pooi. We have extieme
ieactions to peipetiatois whom we can iuentify, typically stiangeis who abuse chiluien.
We spent huge sums of money foi piisons anu civil commitment, while we pioviue
woefully inauequate seivices foi chilu suivivois anu theii families. Fuitheimoie, we uo not
have the executive skills to connect the uots that might pievent the uevelopment of
sexually abusive behaviois in the fiist place.
The piomotion of boys' emotional uevelopment, laige-scale commitment of
iesouices to piomote healthy sex euucation, challenges to genuei iole socialization that put
boys at iisk to peipetiate, paient euucation anu tiaining, anu enlighteneu effoits to help
tiaumatizeu paients ueal with theii own tiauma aie some of the many stiategies that will
contiibute to piimaiy pievention. This book has uiscusseu anu uocumenteu these
Effoits at eveiy level of oui society aie iequiieu. Auvocacy thiough task foices anu
citizens' gioups, policy changes anu iesouices to implement anu monitoi piogiams,
tiaining piogiams foi piofessionals baseu on accuiate, multi-faceteu infoimation, anu
many othei effoits alieauy uiscusseu in this book aie some of the many ways to make a
uiffeience. volunteei woik with chiluien anu theii families in homeless shelteis anu
chiluien's homes, guaiuian au litem piogiams, anu ieauing to chiluien in school aie some
of the many ways that inuiviuuals can make a uiffeience in inuiviuual chiluien's lives.
The ioots of chilu sexual abuse aie wiue-spieau anu aie connecteu to many othei
social ills. Almost any effoit that piomotes chilu anu paient well-being contiibutes to
pievention. Paient suppoit piogiams, foi, example, have positive effects that incluue anu
go beyonu the pievention of chilu sexual abuse. Theie simply aie not enough of them.
Bealthy anu appiopiiate sex euucation, emotion anu social skills euucation in the schools,
anu piogiams that challenge pio-violence beliefs aie othei inteiventions that contiibute to
Chiluien who have secuie attachments to theii paients aie much moie likely to
ieceive healthy sex euucations anu to be iaiseu by paients who piactice genuei
egalitaiianism. It woulu nevei occui to them to take auvantage of otheis. If, as young
chiluien, they uo attempt to uo so, theii paients immeuiately coiiect them anu show them
how to behave in iespectful ways.
While some chiluien ieceive exemplaiy caie, theie aie countless millions of chiluien
alieauy at iisk because of insecuie anu uisoiganizeu attachments anu who ieceive theii sex
euucation anu guiuance foi sexual behaviois fiom peeis anu the meuia. Such chiluien have
complex iisks foi vaiious pooi outcomes. Some of them peipetiate chilu sexual abuse. An
euucateu public with goou executive skills woulu take immeuiate action to pioviue chiluien
anu families with the iesouices they iequiie to thiive. Theie is much to be uone.
Copyiight 2u1u }ane uilgun

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