Research released on Nov. 11 from Illuminate Colorado, a statewide nonprofit working to strengthen families, organizations and communities to prevent child maltreatment, examines data and trends related to child sexual abuse in Colorado and presents recommendations for preventing abuse statewide. The study also highlights known solutions to the problem of child sexual abuse for parents, professionals and policymakers alike.
“We have a responsibility to help all children reach their full potential,” said Jade Woodard, executive director of Illuminate. “Ultimately, building awareness, knowledge, skills and confidence with adults, who are supported by communities, systems and policies to create safe environments, can result in the prevention of child sexual abuse.”
As part of the study, Illuminate surveyed Coloradans attitudes, knowledge and behaviors related to the prevention of child sexual abuse, analyzed child welfare data in Colorado and estimated the financial impact associated with the problem.
From January of 2014 through December 2020 alone, more than 7,400 children in Colorado were identified as having been sexually abused, with an estimated financial cost of $1.5 billion to support these children on their journey toward healing.
- Less than half of parents (47%) say they typically use anatomically correct terms.
- The use of anatomically correct terms, such as penis and vagina, promotes positive body image, self-confidence and parent-child communication. Incorrect terms can leave children confused and less capable of navigating difficult situations that might result in abuse.
- When informed that using these terms is a way to prevent child sexual abuse, 71% of parents said they would consider using anatomical terms.
- It is particularly important to reach men aged 18-54 with this information given that less than half of men (42%) reported using the proper terms.
“We’ve repeatedly heard stories that affirm the need to have clear and thoughtful ongoing conversations with children. Sex offenders report that when children used the proper words for their private parts, it was a deterrent,” said Margaret M. Ochoa, child sexual abuse prevention specialist with the Colorado Department of Public Safety.
- While nearly half of parents (49%) did not have “the talk” with their parents when growing up, 66% of parents plan to have ongoing conversations with their children about sex or puberty.
“This is a positive indication that generational attitudes are shifting in a way that supports the prevention of child sexual abuse,” said Woodard. “But we still have a long way to go.”
Recommendations for creating a Colorado where children grow up free from sexual abuse include funding strategic multi-year public awareness campaigns reaching all Coloradans to shift the norms related to child sexual abuse prevention, specifically letting more parents know of the need to use anatomically correct terms with children.
For a complete copy of “Creating a Colorado Where Children Grow Up Free From Sexual Abuse: An Issue Brief on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse in Colorado” and FREE online training to prevent your child and the children in your community from experiencing sexual abuse, visit IlluminateColorado.org