Child sexual abuse is not ‘rare,’ so prevention is key

IN RESPONSE to “Newton’s agony over child porn cases is over the top’’ (Letters, Jan. 28), it should be made clear that child sexual abuse and child exploitation are not “rare’’ events. An estimated 39 million Americans are victims of child sexual abuse, and one-third are children now. Each week the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline receives 3,500 reports of suspected child sexual exploitation, and 90 percent of these reports involve films, videos, and online images of children being sexually abused.

Newton is a “reasonably safe’’ community, as the writer states, but this is not because child sexual abuse does not occur there. In every community, abusers live among us under the cover of trustworthiness and niceness. Citizens are coming to understand that public appearance does not always predict private behavior.

Leaders in Newton already knew that when, two decades ago, they launched the Child Assault Prevention Program, or CAP, in local schools. In 2002, the city was one of the first sites selected to pilot the state’s Enough Abuse Campaign, a federally funded initiative charged with building adult and community responsibility for sexual abuse prevention. Since then, thousands of elementary school children, parents, and professionals have been educated to carry out strategies aimed at preventing child sexual abuse.


Officials believe that no Newton children were abused by either of the two people arrested recently on child pornography charges. While it may be too early to know this for sure, it is a sign that prevention can make a difference.


Executive director Massachusetts Citizens for Children


Massachusetts Citizens for Children is lead agency for the Enough Abuse Campaign