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Preventing child sexual abuse: A systematic review of interventions and their efficacy in developing countries

Russell, Douglas; Higgins, Darryl; Posso, Alberto – 2020

Research on prevalence, risk factors, and prevention interventions for child sexual abuse has continued to focus on western and developed countries. Where country-level prevalence data or large-scale research exists, rates of child sexual abuse are consistently higher in developing and non-western countries than their western and developed counterparts.

We systematically reviewed research on the nature of child sexual abuse interventions in developing countries, the settings and populations included to identify types of child sexual abuse prevention initiatives being implemented in developing countries and their effectiveness.

Following PRISMA guidelines, we conducted a systematic search of six databases and identified eight studies to include in our analysis.

Most empirically evaluated interventions in developing countries have focused on preschool and primary school-aged children. Most have focused on interventions delivered in educational settings, with a lack of focus on population-level interventions to prevent child sexual abuse. Researchers have used outcomes measuring knowledge or skills for young people in self-protection and help-seeking, not deployment of those skills, actual reduction in prevalence of CSA, or improvements in conditions of safety in organizational contexts.

If the focus on school-based strategies to prevent child sexual abuse continues in developing countries, a significant gap in knowledge of the efficacy of population-level interventions outside of school contexts, and consistency across the application of interventions will remain. Evaluations are needed that address the efficacy of broader government-led or whole-of-community prevention interventions to reduce actual prevalence of child sexual abuse, or that can link increased knowledge and skill with reduced victimization.