Sunday, September 18, 2016

Primary Prevention Tactics

Controversial And Emotional

Primary prevention is an extremely controversial and emotional area for most people to handle. In order to calm that controversy and dull the passions aroused from the subjects involved in primary prevention, it is necessary that facts and research around the primary prevention take priority, as well as observing a number of tactics in making the focus on facts and research as effective as possible. It is also necessary for there to be credibility. These tactics are not only observable by advocates, but by researchers, educators, and ordinary people who wish to contribute to furthering preventing child sexual abuse before it happens.

Make It Real

Many people wish to believe that child sexual abuse could never impact them or anyone they care about. They would prefer not to get involved. However, the reality of that is very different. Advocates, researchers, and most involved in sexual abuse prevention know that the true horror of child sexual abuse is how secret it stays for most people. The goal of advocating is to drive home the point that this issue is a real issue that affects real people, and that is why people need to be prepared to prevent it, handle it, and engage their communities over the epidemic of child sexual abuse. Personal stories, anecdotes, plays, books, questions, and discussions can all play a role in making the issue of child sexual abuse real for people.

Answer The Trolls

This goes against the conventional wisdom of the internet, which is to ignore trolls and let them have their bridges. However, your goal is not to convince individual people of facts, and when a troll rears their ugly head, it is a perfect opportunity to convince not the troll, but the onlookers reading the exchange. Most rational people can spot a troll, so your ability to remain calm and collected while bringing facts and reason to an otherwise emotionally charged exchange will be a noticeable contrast. This brings me to my next point.

Fact And Reason, Over Passion And Insults

One of the first and foremost necessities in primary prevention is to never, ever insult someone no matter what they say. Taking the higher road gains you instant credibility. Calling out logical fallacies, such as ad hominem attacks, as you see them rather than attacking the person who is insulting or questioning you is far preferable. Everyone who is anyone insults someone on the internet. Politicians do it. Teenagers do it. College students. Researchers. Cops. Lawyers. Anyone who can hide (or not hide) behind an internet account to insult, mock, belittle, or bully people can and will do it. It is extremely tempting, completely ordinary behavior to insult in return someone who is insulting you.

That is why not doing so, and sticking exclusively to the argument being made and attacking the argument, or what the other person is saying, is so noticeable. When you ignore the jab or call it out, you stand out.

The best course of action that is both noticeable and noble is to ignore the insult, and call it what it is: A logical fallacy, an error in reasoning, or an off-topic attempt to undermine the facts or arguments being presented. Some examples:

Example 1:
Troll: "Well, Mr. TNF 13, you are quite the arrogant jerk, thinking you can tell us that abusers should be pitied. Abusers should be hung from a tree by their balls, and anyone who defends them by their toenails."
TNF 13: "Ad hominem attacks do not make your argument stronger, and the death penalty costs money. Would you like to be the one to suggest raising taxes for your vengeance?"

Example 2:
Troll: "You are only saying that because you are a sex offender. Will we find your name on the registry?"
Advocate: "Who I am does not add or reduce credibility to the facts I have presented, and the sex offender registry does not protect children before they are abused, it punishes those who have already done so."

Example 3:
Troll: "You must be a pedophile to defend pedophiles like that."
Advocate: "A logical fallacy that fails to address the facts I have presented does not make the facts less factual. Perhaps you could remain on topic?"

Use Studies, Not Lists

Lists of statistics can be valuable. But the simple fact of the matter is, people do not buy statistics. Some do, if they have taken the time to see where the statistic is coming from and how valid the source is. Statistics, in most people's minds, can be presented for either "side" of any issue (of course, this is a false dilemma, assuming that all issues have only two sides). The use of studies can trump the use of statistics. For example, if I am talking about the low recidivism rate for sex offenders, it is highly valuable to cite a link supporting my statement. Which of these three says more?

Option 1: Sex offender's sexual recidivism is 11.5%.
Option 2: Sex offenders re-offend sexually at a rate around 11.5%, according to Hanson and Morton-Bourgon (2009).
Option 3: The average sexual offender repeats their sexual crimes at a rate around 11.5% (Hanson and Morton-Bourgon, 2009: DOI: 10.1037/a001442 : Sample size: 45,398 offenders across 16 countries).

Obviously, I just asked a leading question, and the first and third option will be more believable. Not only did I cite the low recidivism rate, I explained what re-offense type is being studied, what the sample size was, and where to find the study. Anyone can copy-paste the DOI into Google and read the study, with all of its methods, references, and data. Not every site can accommodate links, so a clear reference to the study where the statistic or fact can be found is preferable. Anyone can likewise click the link and see the study for themselves, and for forums of communication that allow links, they can be essential.

Know The Facts

It is not enough to have a casual knowledge of the subjects pertaining to child sexual abuse. You have to know your material, so that when people question you, you can provide answers. It is also useful for some of the cruder suggestions for how the issue of child sexual abuse can be solved (death penalty, castration, or some variation on the two). These suggestions easily be countered by the fact that over a third of sexual abusers are juveniles, or that around 90% never repeat sexual crimes. No one listening to such a conversation is likely to condone shooting or castrating children who engage in sexually abusive behaviors, and knowing that fact and using it, while it may not change the mind of the person making the suggestion, will bring more attention to the issue for the average listener.

While some people may think it is creepy for someone to know the facts about child sexual abuse, such knowledge is essential to being able to educate and advocate. While it is obviously impossible to know everything about the subject, the level of knowledge you have gives credibility to your statements, both with and without citations and studies. People would be hard-pressed to rationally argue that I have no idea what I am talking about if I can cite sources or statistics at the drop of a hat.

Have A Mission Statement

Having a mission statement can help deflect some of the vitriol and trolls that might otherwise be attracted to some of the topics surrounding primary prevention, and it will show people that you are serious about preventing sexual abuse. While a mission statement is a recent addition to this blog, it is nonetheless essential for anyone wanting to put themselves in the public sphere. It can also help clarify what your specific target area is within prevention. Do you advocate? Are you a political activist? Do you protest? Defining yourself can also help deflect some criticism.

Be Passionate

The best thing you can do to show people you are sincere about something is to spend time on it and add a tone of urgency. People need to do something, sure, but it is best for the children if they do it now. If you start a discussion, and then remain silent, people will question just how important the issue is to you. This passion needs to show, and people have no idea how much time you spend on advocating against sexual abuse if you make it an infrequent project. That is partly why I have something in the works, amidst a family emergency, that will be announced sometime next year. Look forward to that announcement!

Summing It Up

The best thing you can add to the voices for changing the systems that allow child sexual abuse to happen is your voice. Speak up. You do not need to make advocacy a part time job in order to make a difference. For each person that reads your contributions and decides to look more into the issue, you make a difference. And while you may not know how many people you are reaching, you can know that you are making a difference. For each person that disagrees with you, you are making one person think harder about the issues.

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