Child Sexual Abuse in Alberta: A Culture of Silence and Inaction

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In today’s changing social landscape with shifting social attitudes, more than ever before survivors of sexual abuse are coming forward with their experiences. Despite the increase in reporting and attention to sexual abuse; incidences of child sexual abuse remain under reported. The aim of this paper is to examine the prevalence of child sexual abuse, analyze literature regarding preventative policy methods, review current Alberta legislation with respect to child sexual abuse, and discuss how the government of Alberta can further their commitment to preventing child sexual abuse through a change in legislation. An analysis of the scope of the problem of child sexual abuse makes it apparent that child sexual abuse is a widely prevalent issue. The literature and legislation review suggest that efforts concerning child sexual abuse prevention have been focused on secondary and tertiary prevention and as a result, will not entirely resolve the problem. This paper illustrates the severe long-term health impacts endured from child sexual abuse and the economic impact that childhood sexual abuse has on Canadian society. In addition, the paper identifies a gap in education and lack of primary prevention measures. The literature suggests that any policy or preventative strategy should be mindful of the needs of diverse and marginalized populations. To prevent child sexual abuse, legislation and research should shift towards evidence-informed prevention measures. The findings of this report suggest the Government of Alberta: • Increase funding towards primary prevention • Create a provincial task force to review the validity and applicability of Erin’s Law • Develop a child sexual abuse provincial framework that is actionable • Call upon the Government of Canada to create a national study on child sexual abuse It is critical that legislation be used as a tool that not only protects children but prevents abuse. Challenging the status quo will require the Alberta government to change legislation substantially while adopting a new paradigm that incorporates both primary and secondary prevention.
Sekhon, H. (2018). Child Sexual Abuse in Alberta: A Culture of Silence and Inaction (Unpublished master's project). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.