A Call to Action for Policymakers and Advocates: Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Legislation in the States

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A Call to Action for Policymakers and Advocates: Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Legislation in the States

MassKids and its Enough Abuse Campaign, in collaboration with Prevent Child Abuse America, released, “A Call to Action for Policymakers and Advocates: Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Legislation in the States” in June 2021. We review five laws aimed at preventing sexual misconduct and abuse through school-based initiatives and provide an overview of each state’s legislative efforts in those areas. We discuss emerging trends and propose a set of recommendations to enhance current state legislative efforts, and to build a national infrastructure to coordinate and support implementation of targeted prevention actions in schools, youth organizations and communities across the states. Read more in the Press Release below. This report has been updated as of June 2024 to include recently passed legislation. 

Download the Call to Action Report

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This report was designed by Graphix for Change.  

Learn how to take action in your state to promote child sexual abuse prevention legislation!

Watch our recorded Webinar Series now!

Enough Abuse and Prevent Child Abuse America teamed up with the National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation  to host a FREE three-part Webinar Series in November 2021 to assist policymakers and advocates in legislative advocacy efforts to prevent child sexual abuse. Advocates from 25 states participated in the webinars and several pledged to begin efforts to introduce new prevention legislation or work to amend current laws that lack recommended provisions. 

The series was a follow up to the release in June of “A Call to Action for Policymakers and Advocates: Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Legislation in the States,” a report developed by MassKids/Enough Abuse in collaboration with Prevent Child Abuse America and endorsed by the National Coalition.

Watch the recordings: 

Part I: Policymakers and Advocates – An Overview of State Legislative Efforts to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse in Schools and Youth Organizations

Learn what these 5 key CSA prevention laws are, how many states have passed them, and why it is crucial that we pass them in every state. 

Part II: Policymakers and Advocates – Strategies to Pass CSA Prevention Education Laws In Your State

Learn about what provisions are recommended to be included in CSA prevention education laws, whether your state has these laws, and how they might be improved. Also learn the first 14 of 21 Strategies to Pass CSA Prevention Laws. 

Part III: Policymakers and Advocates: Strategies to Enact Comprehensive Screening Laws and Policies in your state

Watch for an in-depth look at standardized screening laws to prevent educator sexual misconduct, what the key components and recommended provisions are, and what resources you can use to advocate to pass or improve the law in your state. We also finish reviewing 21 Strategies to Pass CSA Prevention Laws in Your State (click here to download the Strategies).

Press Release

June 2, 2021 


Child Advocates Urge President Biden to Address Child Sexual Abuse Crisis

Report Recommends States Introduce Laws to Strengthen Child Safety 

Boston – A national Call to Action for Policymakers and Advocatesreport details legislative efforts in each of the 50 states to prevent child sexual abuse. It urges President Biden to appoint a Policy Czar and Federal Interagency Task Force to work with private sector abuse prevention experts in addressing what law enforcement and public health officials are calling “a pandemic within a pandemic.”  The 116-page report researched by MassKids, a Boston-based child advocacy group, documents the alarming increase in both in-home and online sexual abuse of minors and calls for urgent action to address it. 

     According to Jetta Bernier, MassKids Director and the report’s author, “Children from every community and from all economic, racial and cultural groups are included in the estimated one in ten children who are victims of child sexual abuse. However, the pandemic has placed children at significantly greater risk, as confirmed by federal and state law enforcement and minors themselves who are calling rape crisis hotlines in unprecedented numbers to report sexual abuse. Consider that over two-thirds of online child sexual abuse images appear to have been taken in a home setting.”

    To address the crisis, MassKids also calls for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fund immediately Training and Technical Assistance Resource Centers in each of the ten federal regions to assist all 50 states in implementing evidence-based programs, prevention policies and practices. 

    MassKids’ recommendations, endorsed by collaborating partner Prevent Child Abuse America – the nation’s largest child abuse prevention organization, call upon lawmakers in every state to introduce legislation mandating all school employees and students to receive training on how to prevent, early identify and report child sexual abuse. According to Bernier, “While 32 states and D.C. have passed such laws, only 14 require training for all school employees and all students. Given U.S. Department of Education data that indicates 4.5 million school children experience some type of sexual misconduct or abuse by an adult in their schools, we must support schools to make this critical prevention education available.”

    In Massachusetts, legislators have been working since 2015 on a set of bills to prevent child sexual abuse and in January introduced the most comprehensive package of prevention bills ever introduced or enacted by any state. Advocates have launched the “Pass the Prevention Package!” Campaign and are asking citizens to urge their elected officials to cosponsor the bills and work for their passage this year.

    According to Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem), a key leader in Massachusetts’ efforts to end child sexual abuse: “These bills would mandate education about prevention in schools and youth organizations and establish a uniform Code of Conduct that prohibits boundary-violating behaviors that, if left unchecked, could lead to illegal sexual offenses. Stronger policies to screen applicants for school jobs would identify past sexual misconduct and allow schools to share information about an employee’s misconduct without the fear of legal reprisals. Confidentiality agreements aimed at suppressing information about an employee’s past misconduct and helping the employee get a job in another school, a practice the U.S. Department of Education refers to as “passing the trash” would be prohibited.”

    The report urges national and community foundations to step up funding to support the scaling up of evidence-based child sexual abuse prevention education programs, the development of new promising policies and research to expand the knowledge base for prevention. According to Bernier, “There is a significant under-resourcing of prevention programs as most foundations focus their support on programs that address the aftermath of child abuse rather than on those aimed at preventing it in the first place. Funders are urged to join the movement to prevent child sexual abuse and not be bystanders to the crisis.”

      The National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation has also endorsed the report. Its membership of over 40 child sexual abuse prevention experts and organizations lead the movement to prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation in the U.S.

About MassKids:

MassKids is a private, statewide citizen-based child advocacy organization with a 60-year history of effective advocacy on behalf of Massachusetts’ most vulnerable children. Since 1986, it has served as Prevent Child Abuse Massachusetts, the state chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America. www.masskids.org

MassKids leads Enough Abuse, a community mobilization and citizen education initiative established in 2002 under a 5-year grant from the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) and now adopted in several states. It provides training and technical assistance to communities, schools and youth-serving organizations, and the tools to help them strengthen prevention policies.

For more information about the “Pass the Prevention Package! Campaign”, visit: www.enoughabuse.org or and call 617-742-8555.