The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC) is seeking funding to conduct a rigorous evaluation of the sexual abuse prevention program entitled Safe Touches: Personal Safety Training for Children" (Safe Touches). Founded in 2007, Safe Touches was developed for kindergartners through third graders, and is conducted in the New York City public school system. The main goal of Safe Touches is to empower children to have personal agency over their bodies thus decreasing the likelihood of being inappropriately sexually touched and increasing the likelihood of disclosure if sexual abuse occurs. While prior research provides some data regarding the efficacy of school-based child sexual abuse (CSA) prevention programs, evidence is profoundly marginal. First, most studies were not designed for multicultural populations, and therefore cannot inform what is effective in populations as diverse as New York City. A review of 22 studies evaluating school-based CSA prevention programs found just eight studies that used ethnically diverse samples, only one of which used a randomly assigned concurrent Control Group however this study had a very small sample size. Further, only three of the studies explored the mediating effects of factors such as gender and ethnicity on outcomes. The authors of those studies recommend future research that includes diverse samples and investigates differences in child characteristics more systematically-these recommendations are incorporated into the design and analysis plan. Second, statistical methods applied to data from prior studies were limited. A meta- analysis of 15 randomized control trials (RCT) of school-based CSA prevention programs found that 10 studies used statistical analyses inappropriate for their particular design, thus increasing the risk for bias. Further, none of the 15 RCT's reported using the intention-to-treat principle. Third, no prior research has evaluated the cost of these programs relative to what children learn. In light of how common these programs are and the lack of valid evidence as to their efficacy, this study will determine their relative value with regard to acquisition of protecive skills by addressing the first and second methodological gaps mentioned above, and expanding the scope to include the third, cost-effectiveness.

Public Health Relevance

In the first national survey of prevalence of child sexual abuse (CSA), 22percent United States population reported they were victims of sexual abuse and studies document that approximately 15-32 percent of woman and 5-16 percent of men report being sexually abused as children;these studies indicate that many more cases go unreported. Evaluating and recognizing model programs can help widen their reach and facilitate a more evidence-based approach to preventing CSA.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Community-Level Health Promotion Study Section (CLHP)
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Maholmes, Valerie
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NY Society/Prevention/Cruelty/Children
New York
United States
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