LOUISVILLE, Ky. –University of Louisville pediatricians have launched an effort to devote time during routine office visits to teach families about sexual abuse prevention. Funded by a grant from the Child Victims’ Trust Fund, the pilot program could be expanded if it proves successful.
“We are formally introducing child sexual abuse prevention into the medical clinical setting, talking one-on-one about steps that will keep children from being harmed,” said Lisa Pfitzer, M.D., UofL Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine. “The pediatrician is uniquely positioned to address this as part of their routine care.”
Sexual abuse prevention education will be offered to 40 families of patients aged 4 through 8 who are seen by pediatricians at University Child Health Specialists South. The educational outreach will be assessed through follow-up phone calls to parents and focus group sessions with the doctors.
“Many parents worry more about stranger danger than inappropriate behavior by people close to home. The typical sexual predator is not a stranger,” explained Melissa Hancock, M.D., medical director of UCHS South and a member of the UofL Division of General Pediatrics. “We will teach our families how everyday actions can help keep children safe at home, at play, at school and out in the world.”
For example, the doctors will use materials from the Stop It Now! organization (www.StopitNow.org) to teach parents to set and respect clear guidelines for privacy, to watch for signs of inappropriate behavior and to create a Family Safety Plan. The curriculum also encourages children to speak up for themselves and explains the difference between a secret and a surprise.
Historically, doctors in training have not been taught much about abuse prevention. Because UCHS South is a UofL Pediatrics teaching practice where pediatric residents care for patients, this program also serves as an opportunity to inform the next generation of pediatricians.
Materials used in this pilot program were purchased with money from the Child Victims’ Trust Fund, which receives its revenues from the state income tax refund check-off, the “I Care About Kids” license plate and private donations.