On August 11, just before unprecedented flooding began to devastate many areas of South Louisiana, Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana sent out a call for testimonials to inform the work of Louisiana’s Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children. This task force was created by the Louisiana Legislature in 2014 pursuant to Senate Concurrent Resolution 69 and further provided for in the 2015 Regular Session in Senate Concurrent Resolution 14.
Below is a slightly edited version of what STAR® submitted to the Task Force. If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, or have other expertise on the topic, please consider contributing your testimony to the Task Force by responding to this questionnaire.
Current State of the Problem
As an agency that serves individuals aged 12 and older who experience sexual trauma, STAR sees many clients who have been affected by child sexual abuse. The majority of our counseling clients are now adults and they are seeking services for abuse they experienced as a child. We also see that it is common for adults who are assaulted to have histories of childhood sexual abuse, which is consistent with national research that indicates that children who are sexually abused are at a greater risk for being assaulted again.
Child sexual abuse is an adverse childhood experience, and there is a significant connection between abuse at a young age and poor mental, physical and behavioral health outcomes later in life. We also see this in our clients at STAR—many of whom struggle with substance abuse, mental illness and other health problems.
What is Working?
In the Capital Region, STAR works with the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center to ensure that children and adults who experience sexual trauma have resources and support from our agencies. We collaborate formally through our Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), and have co-hosted support groups for children, teen and non-offending parents to address sexual abuse within families.
What is Not Working?
Resources for prevention are incredibly limited. Many health care workers, educators and representatives of partner organization are not provided with the necessary information and knowledge to adequately and effectively address sexual abuse.
In addition to these issues with adults, there is very limited prevention information disseminated to children through school or after school programming. STAR has several curricula available to teach youth about boundaries, healthy relationships and violence prevention; however, many schools do not take advantage of this free service due to academic achievement and testing demands, despite that we know trauma can have negative impacts on students’ academic achievement. Additionally, with funding for only one prevention educator, our organization does not have nearly enough resources to address this need alone. To address the issue of sexual violence, all state and community institutions must make it a priority.
Finally, there is limited funding for services to survivors of child sexual abuse. At STAR, we receive no state funding, nor do any other sexual assault centers in the state. We rely heavily on competitive Federal grants to allow us to provide our advocacy, counseling and legal services to survivors and their loved ones free of charge.
Throughout the state, there are only 13 sexual assault service providers, while the numbers of those affected are staggering. There are many parishes in our state that are entirely unserved. Given this need, STAR currently serves the Capital, Central Louisiana and Greater New Orleans Areas (covering 14 parishes total), with 20 full-time and 6 part-time staff members. Given that sexual violence is experienced at epidemic levels, and given the often long-term and far-reaching impacts of this hidden epidemic, Louisiana survivors of sexual violence deserve much better access to resources.
What is Needed
- Resources to train and inform mandatory reporters so that they have the skills and knowledge to report sexual abuse of minors
- Increased funding for child sexual abuse services and prevention education
- State leaders to make services for all survivors of sexual violence (children and adults) a priority
- State leaders to make sexual violence prevention programming and awareness a priority
- State leaders to recognize and understand the distinction between sexual violence and domestic violence, and why specialized services for sexual trauma are important
- More research into sex offenders; including identifying risk factors for perpetration, intervention for low-risk offenders (prior to jail time), and management and treatment of offenders (both in prison and re-entry services)
To submit your own experience or expertise of child sexual abuse to the task force, fill out this questionnaire.