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School-based Sexual Abuse Prevention Programs

wledge of the subject compared to children in a control group.

Child sexual abuse is a serious problem for school-aged children worldwide, the reviewers write. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 2004 state and local Child Protective Services study found that 10 percent of U.S. children reported being victims of sexual abuse.

However, the review notes that there is no consistent definition of sexual abuse. Some prevention programs define abuse as instances of sexual body contact with a child while others consider abuse any sexual behavior in a childs presence, the review said.

Experts say most cases of sexual abuse go unreported. Moreover, the Cochrane reviewers said without a uniformly accepted definition, it is difficult to know how often sexual abuse occurs, especially in countries where there have been few studies conducted.

Rates [of abuse] may vary between countries because of differences in how child abuse is reported rather than true differences, Zwi said. The important point is that child abuse is generally under-reported.

This is because child sexual abuse is a difficult diagnosis to be certain of, and because many children are reluctant to declare their abuse for a range of reasons.

Joan Duffell, director of partnership development for the Committee for Children, said school-based prevention programs could help children know when to report abuse.

The Seattle-based nonprofit organization develops classroom programs that focus on topics such as youth violence, child abuse and personal safety. Schools should be diligent to select programs known to be effective, she said.

There are a proliferation of prevention programs around the country, some good and some not so good, Duffell said. We always recommend abuse preventions programs that are first based on the most current research
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