Friday, April 17, 2015

Discussing sexual abuse prevention: Jane Theriault talks to Keith Kaufman

As part of the prevention series, I spoke with Keith Kaufman, a professor of Clinical Psychology at Oregon State University and former ATSA president, about his newest prevention project, a self-assessment tool using the Situational Prevention Approach.

Keith started doing prevention work in the mid-1980s, motivated by his clinical training and his work supervising a treatment program for offenders at Ohio State University. He says that he spent a lot of time treating offenders, and there saw a lot of children who were victimized as well. He was encouraged by the potential to help – in his words, “Prevention works with other medical diseases, so why not here?”

His focus has changed over time to situational prevention. Situational prevention has existed for over 60 years as a tool to create safer housing worldwide, and for more than 20 years as a method of crime prevention, but its application to the prevention of sexual violence is relatively new. It began when Smallbone (2006) edited a book encouraging its use there, and it has moved to a more applied method, the Situational Prevention Approach, when two children’s hospitals found offenders in their midst. Since then, it’s been used at at least 2 other hospitals and also by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

The Situational Prevention Approach is based on the idea that many of the most vulnerable organizations and communities are the least able to pay for a consultant to come in and do prevention work, or even to purchase expensive tools or a curriculum. For the Boys and Girls Clubs, this led to a self-assessment tool that staff can use themselves to identify risks, learn about prevention and risk reduction solutions, and draw on the protective factors and strengths that they have to help with prevention. Data collection has begun, and the preliminary results look good – clubs were able to identify 7-10 times more risks in their environment after using the screening tool, and also prevent those risks. Additionally, they described it as easy and simple to use.

Keith believes that the program works well because of this simplicity, as well as how practical it is for the clubs that are using it. Because it’s process based, it tailors itself to the organization that is using it. They only see risks that are related to them, and the only solutions that they see are practical – they don’t see steps that won’t fit their organization.

You can read more about the Situational Prevention Approach and the partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of America in a 2012 issue of the ATSA Forum.  (Click here for more information).

Jane Harries Theriault, Ph.D., adjunct faculty in psychology at the University of Massachusetts – Lowell and Middlesex Community College.

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