Prevention is a steppingstone to healthy individuals, families, and communities. It requires a multi-faceted approach involving education, awareness, accountability, collaboration, innovation, and the promotion of positive change. Setting aside the standard concept that to prevent means a circumstane won’t happen, LSAS seeks to embrace prevention and education work for those who have been harmed as a life-long journey of learning and growth. Prevention at LSAS looks beyond simply crime and punishment, and into deep healing from the influence of structures and systems; it asks the collective group to be open and proactive within early intervention and education, dismantling traditional knowledge about sexual violence and creating opportunities to learn and do better.
Prevention within the field of sexual violence encompasses the following:
Prevention-focused services at LSAS provide benefits to clients through increased knowledge, a personal sense of empowerment, uplifted voices of marginalized individuals/groups, the confidence to make healthy choices, understanding our ingrained beliefs and attitudes and how they could potentially impact others. Accessing prevention programming reduces the risk of individuals harming, or repeating harmful behaviours, towards others in the future and instead, reinforces positive change and behaviours within relational contexts. Prevention programming allows individuals to process, transform, and navigate their well-being through numerous modalities and healing options.
Prevention at LSAS focuses on addressing fundamental, societal issues rather than simply treating the outcomes. Prevention programs allow space to dispel heavily engrained beliefs about sexual violence, and work towards decreasing oppressive and stigmatized factors that contribute to the ongoing tolerance and silence surrounding sexual assault and abuse in communities. Prevention is the focus on the root of the issue and anticipating new change and growth from there – one person, family, and interaction at a time.
Prevention with Body Science
LSAS’s Body Science program was redeveloped in 2016 and focused on fun and engaging ways to teach children about their bodies, private parts, and sexual abuse. It is meant for children as an early learning opportunity and/or for children who have shown an incident of sexual behaviours that requires some early intervention and education. Activities and modalities like movement, art, play, and mindfulness are utilized to integrate learning. The program is offered at LSAS and via outreach locations within our service area, and comprises 5 educational sessions.
To provide children with the knowledge on their bodies and personal autonomy.
To provide children with the language around sexual abuse.
To provide children with a safe space to explore a challenging topic with professionals experienced in the field of sexual violence.
To offer early education and prevention resources so that children are prepared if/when something not okay occurs.
To empower children to tell a safe and trusted adult when an incident takes place.
Prevention & Intervention with the Sexual Behaviour Program
In 2016, LSAS implemented a program for children under the age of 12 and their families coping with sexual behaviours. The program is specifically designed to support children who require extra education and skills to cope with multiple emotions, experiences, and/or trauma. Sexual behaviours in children is not something to ignore or feel shame about because it does happen within our community. LSAS recognizes these can be uncomfortable situations and we are here to support and answer any questions or concerns you may have. It is important to understand that some cases of sexual behaviors are taking place because the child is seeking opportunities to release or process emotions, self-soothe, find attachment, or love, or may not know the behaviours are not okay. In some cases, the child may have experienced sexual abuse though it is not always a clear indicator. It is beneficial to connect with appropriate services to move through help, healing, and hope.
This is a free program and accessible in-house or via outreach sessions.
Possible Problematic Sexual Behaviours in Toddlers
- Continuing to touch their genitals even when someone has tried to get them to do something else
- Inviting another child to engage in sexual activity or touching
- Playing with dolls or other toys in a sexual way
- Touching and/or trying to touch the genitals of adults
- Persistently peeping at other children or adults when they’re naked or using the washroom
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Possible Problematic Sexual Behaviours in Preschoolers
- Persistently touching or rubbing their genitals in public and not responding to distraction or attempts to get them to do something else
- Persistently using coarse sexual language, even when they’ve been told not to
- Persistently touching the genitals of other children or animals, even when someone has tried to get them to do something else
- Trying to and/or use of objects with genitals (self or others)
Possible Problematic Sexual Behaviours in School-Age Children
- Persistently rubbing or touching their genitals in public, even when someone has tried to get them to do something else
- Persistently flashing their genitals or bottoms to other children
- Persistently using coarse sexual or explicit language
- Wanting to play sexual games (with younger, same-aged, or older children)
- Forcing or tricking other children into playing sexual games
- Repeatedly wanting to look at or touch the genitals of other children or adults
Children and families can access the program in the following ways:
- Referred by another organization (i.e.: Children’s Services, schools, mental health)
- Self-referred (i.e.: the family notices an issue and calls LSAS)
An LSAS employee will connect with a parent/caregiver to gather information and assign the family to a Crisis Interventionist. If there are multiple children involved, there may be a team of Crisis Interventionists that support the family. Sessions can include the child, any siblings, parents/caregivers, or others that may be involved with the child closely. There is great value and healing when the child showing sexual behaviours is surrounded by caring, supportive adults who will help create healthy change.
Sessions are catered uniquely to the child’s needs and family dynamics. Topics include:
Prevention & Intervention with the Youth Connection Program
The Youth Connection Program was developed and piloted in 2020-2023 and part of the Collaborative Response to Youth Sexual Offending Project, originally funded by the Youth Justice Fund through the Department of Justice, Government of Canada. This program supports youth who are struggling with sexual behaviour concerns and/or sexual offences, as well as their families. In addition to other Enhanced Support Services, this program is offered in a secondary location to LSAS’s main building, with potential for virtual and outreach options.
Case plans are created uniquely for each youth and family and may include some of the following topics:
- Harmful Beliefs and Behaviours
- Hopes & Worries
- Coping Strategies
- Amends and Restorative Practices
- Compassion & Connection
- Emotional Regulation
- Understanding the Body
LSAS recognizes there are barriers and challenges to coming forward and accessing support when a youth is struggling with sexual behaviours or sexually offends. There might be a number of different questions, emotions, fears, and uncertainty about what comes next. The Youth Connection Program aims to address those concerns as well as a provide a safe, informative, and collaborative space to learn, grow, heal, and be accountable.
Most youth are curious about sex.
This curiosity may turn into a behaviour where they take advantage of situations with younger children or peers. While their intentions may not be malicious – fully recognizing that some are – they can cause harm. Education and open conversations about sex with informed and caring adults can lead to satisfying part of this curiosity and enforce healthy and safe boundaries and exploration.
It is commonly believed that sexual instances are thought of as part of growing up or should be kept private and not talked about. This does the youth a disservice, particularly if they have completed a sexual act that harms another or goes against the law. Being curious about sex is a natural process of growing up and should be nurtured.
Youth who commit sexual offences can heal and engage in healthy relationships.
Youth who are supported in their healing and understanding of healthy sexual practices and relationships grow up to embody those same practices and values later in life. Think of it as preparation for healthy adult relationships; if we are not modeling and educating about what that looks like, youth will struggle to know or seek answers from elsewhere.
Some believe that youth who sexually offend will struggle as adults and continue the cycle of violence against others. If youth are not provided education, support, healing, accountability, or treatment, then this is a possibility; however, supportive measures in place with a focus on a whole approach to healing impacts change in their development.
Females account for 10% of sexual offenses.
Considering this statistic only represents reported sexual offences perpetrated by a female youth, meaning females who sexually offend may represent a higher percentage than what has been discovered so far. As helpers, it is important to understand that female youth do commit sexual offences and should still be held respectfully accountable.
It is commonly believed that only males sexually offend and that females are more nurturing and would not behave this way; or, if a female youth were to offend, there is something not okay. This belief can create secrecy around sexual offences perpetrated by female youth.
Youth will often sexually offend against someone they know.
Most acts of sexual violence are committed by people known by the survivor. This is no different when it comes to situations of youth who sexually offend. In cases of sibling abuse, these behaviours can occur for long periods of time.
It is more common to believe that strangers will commit these types of offences and can be difficult to accept that someone we know would sexually offend. Families and caregivers may struggle to come forward if the sexual offences took place in their homes; it can be easier to cope with the “stranger danger” theory even though it is less common.
Hold youth accountable by moving away from labels.
Labeling a youth as a sex offender can come with significant negative thought processes. By using terminology like “a youth who sexually offends” we are moving the label from the youth to the behaviour, which allows space for the youth to still be a youth, while indicating the need for support of certain behaviours.
It may be easier for some to accept a label or assign a label due to societal patterns and judgements. There is a lack of knowledge surrounding youth who sexually offend that contributes to labelling and escaping accountability.
Program session options
Coping Skills // Emotional Regulation // Resiliency // Compassion & Connection // Healthy Family Dynamics // Self-Esteem // Harmful Beliefs & Behaviours // Understanding the Body // Pornography Awareness // Communication // Embracing Your Community // Conflict Resolution // Amends and Restorative Practices