Criminology Professor Wins Grant to Research Baby Sexual Abuse Prevention
Ryan Shields, Assistant Professor at the School of Criminology and Justice Studies, awards a four-year $ 1.5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to explore a unique approach to preventing child sexual abuse.
Shields and his longtime research partner, as well as the grant’s lead researcher, Elizabeth Letourneau of Johns Hopkins University, will investigate the effectiveness of Help Wanted Prevention Intervention, the online program they developed as an intervention for people who sexually transform themselves from children feel attracted.
Child sexual abuse is a “major public health problem,” says Shields. “The intervention provides resources for understanding child sexual abuse, talking about attraction, dealing with sexual attractions, building a positive self-image, and building healthy sexuality. The purpose of the intervention is to prevent child sexual abuse and to help people who seek help to lead healthy and happy lives. “
The grant allows the team to “rigorously evaluate” the intervention to determine whether “help sought” is effective.
Shields, a 2013 Florida State University graduate, began his academic career at Johns Hopkins, working with Letourneau at the Moore Center for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. He worked as a research fellow in the mental health department where the Moore Center is located.
“Help Wanted” aims to prevent sexual assault against children and to provide those seeking help with resources and tools to support their wellbeing.
The grant is also used to investigate psychosocial stressors as potential mediators or moderators. The intervention will be revised based on the results of the study.
During his graduation thesis, Shields was studying guidelines on the punishment of sex offenders and sex crimes in adults and found “a lot of guidelines but not a lot of supporting evidence”.
“During my work, I came across a surprising statistic: About half – and recent evidence suggests up to 75 percent – of child sexual abuse cases are committed by other children under the age of 18,” said Shields, whose CDC focuses this grant focus specifically on the primary prevention of child sexual abuse by adults.
From his research he concluded that there were no prevention strategies.
Responses, treatment, and punishment come after the problem occurs, Shields says.
“We seldom do anything to prevent these events from occurring in the first place. The CDC grant to support prevention is a cornerstone in my opinion. I hope it opens the door to greater national investment in prevention, ”he says.