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Sound Policy and Practice to Prevent and Address Sex Crime

Elizabeth J. Letourneau

Child sexual abuse is among 24 global health risk factors identified by the World Health Organization that substantively affect the global burden of diseases, both physical and mental.  Numerous efforts have been made to encourage the development and adoption of a comprehensive public health approach emphasizing the primary prevention of CSA, but without broad success to date.  This keynote will focus on current policy and practice to address child sexual abuse, with an emphasis on failed criminal justice policies including sex offender registration, notification, and residence restrictions and promising approaches that address child sexual abuse as a preventable public health problem. 


Elizabeth J. Letourneau, Ph.D. is Professor with Tenure, Department of Mental Health, and Director, Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  For nearly 30 years she has conducted research involving the development and rigorous evaluation of prevention and intervention programs aimed at addressing youth sexual violence and related youth risk behaviors, including substance abuse and sexual risk behaviors and at improving HIV testing and medication adherence.  She also has conducted substantive research on the effects of legal policies related to youth sexual behaviors. More specifically, Dr. Letourneau led the largest randomized control trial to date evaluating an intervention for youth who have sexually offended, served as principal investigator for numerous studies evaluating adult and adolescent sex crime policies, findings of which were cited in federal and state court cases including three state supreme court cases, and provided as testimony to state and federal policy makers.  

As the inaugural director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse Dr. Letourneau’s efforts now focus on developing and evaluating child sexual abuse prevention interventions.  One of these projects was featured in a This American Life podcast and aTEDMED talk on the prevention of child sexual abuse. Dr. Letourneau served as an expert witness to the Australian Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, as a member of the World Health Organization Guidelines Development Group developing Clinical Guidelines for Responding to the Sexual Abuse of Children and Adolescents, and is currently consulting with leaders of the Vatican’s efforts to prevent child sexual abuse.  Dr. Letourneau is a member of the Maryland State Council on Child Abuse and Neglect and a past president of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.