By Kieran McCartan, Ph.D., and David S. Prescott, LICSW
Earlier this week, the European Commission published a new
document titled “Help
seeker and Perpetrator Prevention Initiatives - Child Sexual Abuse and
Exploitation” Its aim is to support initiatives
for Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) help-seeker and perpetration prevention. The idea
is that by creating a common taxonomy of prevention programs for several
different stakeholders, we can collectively understand and share best practices
around CSA prevention initiatives. The report is a step towards the creation of
a European Union (EU) knowledge platform on CSA prevention initiatives, which
will support EU Member States to develop and roll out tailor-made prevention
policies according to their respective cultural and societal environments and
On May 11, 2022, the European Commission published a
proposal to prevent and combat CSA, with a strong emphasis on prevention; but
even though preventing and combatting child sexual abuse is a priority of the
European Union, there has been no common EU-wide approach or concrete framework
to highlight what member states had already accomplished. A plethora of
different terminologies and taxonomies exist to describe prevention programmes (a
common issue across the EU in general), making the information about such
initiatives limited, unclear, and unstructured.
HOME, the newly emerging prevention network developed by the team and a number of interviewed practitioners and
experts reached a common consensus on the idea that to raise awareness of
existing prevention programmes for people at risk of committing sexual offenses
it was necessary to categorize and evaluate them. For this purpose, a dedicated
working group was established, and the output of this common effort are 14
classification criteria that will support EU Member States to develop,
implement and research prevention work in different countries. The 14 agreed
classification criteria are:
TARGET identifies to whom the initiative
is addressed, such as people who fear they may offend.
CONTEXT refers to the environment in
which the intervention is given.
METHODS refers to the tools, treatments,
support opportunities and programmes proposed to the targets.
INITIATIVE PROVIDER refers to the nature
and main activities of the entity or initiative provider that is offering the
program and/or treatment as well as the
one that implemented it.
FUNDING refers to the money allocated to
the program and/or treatment.
COSTS refers to the costs that would be
sustained by the entity proposing/setting up the program
THE FOUR PREVENTION STAGES (Primary, Secondary,
Tertiary, Quaternary, described in previous blog posts and the extant
EVALUATION aims to capture the outcomes
of the initiatives.
ACCOUNTABILITY of the programmes refers
to the processes and mechanisms put in place by the initiative provider to
appraise the programme at different stages to ensure that the programme remains
accountable, and that it is working towards the goals.
LEGISLATION refers to the legal national
framework under which the specific programme/intervention is being deployed.
COLLABORATION refers to the synergies and
complementarities that can be established with different entities involved in
the prevention of CSA.
DISSEMINATION refers to the actions taken
to raise awareness about the prevention initiative among (potential)
TARGETS’ RIGHTS are explored in terms of
privacy, anonymity, and safety to preserve and assure confidentiality, assurance
of empathy, etc.
ACCESSIBILITY refers to several elements
of the preventive programme that can be related to: the language of the
resources, the availability of complementary tools to the traditional
text-based ones, the standardisation of tools provided, and he cultural
(The criteria are adapted/replicated
The 14 classification criteria were then applied to five
case studies (PedoHelp – France; Parafilik – Czech Republic; Out of the Net -
Spain; Sexual Aggression Control – Spain;
Circles of Support and
Accountability (CoSA) - European union-united kingdom) to see how they
aligned. The results indicated that the five case studies did align and that
the criteria were useful in the development and implementation of prevention
programs. Additionally, the report goes on to discuss a series of international
prevention mapping tools (i.e., INHOPE
prevention initiative report, Eradicating Child
Sexual Abuse (ECSA), PedoHelp, Helplinks (a Europol website as part of the Police2Peer
project) and the UNICEF
promising programmes to prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation report.
The report finishes off with a series of smaller sections describing relevant
information on several programmes for people who fear they may offend, for
people going through criminal proceedings and post criminal proceedings, as
well as those for minors.
This is an invaluable resource for policy makers,
practitioners, and researchers alike. The report demonstrates the development
of good practice available in developing interventions for people at risk of
committing a sexual offence or those who have. I would strongly recommend
looking at it and learning from its findings.