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Editor's e-Note
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and during a time of increased isolation and elevated stress, it is especially important to recognize programs and methods that have proven effective in reducing and preventing abuse and neglect of children. In this month’s E-News Exclusive, two social work educators and a repertory theater’s community health and wellness director describe the Hugs and Kisses program, which was established in 1983, has been studied multiple times since then, and was found to be an effective child sexual abuse prevention program. Read about this creative project using the engaging dynamic of live theater with the opportunity for postperformance one-on-one interactions with children.

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— Marianne Mallon, editor
e-News Exclusive
Hugs and Kisses — A Model for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention
By Jimmy A. Young, PhD, MSW, MPA; Hannah Miller, EdM; and Angie Mann‑Williams, PhD, LCSW

The most recent data from the Child Maltreatment 2018 report show that the number of victims of child abuse and neglect rose to 678,000 in 2018 from 675,000 in 2014 (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2020). The report further illustrates that 7% of those victims were sexually abused only. Previous studies have shown child sexual abuse (CSA) to be a silent epidemic affecting 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 20 boys in the United States (Finkelhor, Shattuck, Turner, & Hamby, 2014).

The definition of CSA has evolved over the years and is broadly understood now as “any sexual activity perpetrated against a minor by threat, force, intimidation, or manipulation” (Collin-Vézina, Daigneault, & Hébert, 2013). It is well established in the research literature that the traumatic experiences of CSA can result in psychological, behavioral, and physiological effects that last well into adulthood (Felitti et al., 1998; Hamby, Finkelhor, & Turner, 2012; Paolucci, Genuis, & Violato, 2001; Whitaker et al., 2008). It is critical that effective prevention and awareness efforts be utilized to help reduce the incidence and prevalence of CSA.

Hugs and Kisses — A CSA Prevention Program
Virginia Repertory Theatre in Richmond, VA, has been addressing the issue of CSA since 1983 through a program called Hugs & Kisses (Hugs). Hugs is a musical play produced by Virginia Rep in partnership with Families Forward Virginia (the state chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America) and the Virginia Department of Social Services. The Baxter Perkinson Center for the Arts and Education was added as an additional partner in July 2019. The program serves as the state’s principal CSA prevention and early intervention program.

Full story »
Tech & Tools
 New App Could Help Panic Attack Sufferers During Coronavirus Pandemic

For the nearly 36 million Americans who experience panic attacks, the coronavirus pandemic is a potentially significant new trigger, a recent story in the Washington Post reports.

For panic attack sufferers facing these new anxieties, there is little recourse. Medication is minimally effective and has side effects. Cognitive behavioral therapy doesn’t work for nearly two-thirds of panic sufferers. And bio-feedback, which has shown promise, is cumbersome and impractical to use outside a laboratory or clinical setting.

PanicMechanic, a new app developed by faculty at the University of Vermont, may be part of a solution. The app adapts biofeedbacklike monitoring so it can be used on a mobile phone. The app can work at any time and in any location, the first technology to do so for panic.

PanicMechanic is meant to be used as a supplement to professional clinical care.

“The challenge with panic attacks is that they’re episodic,” says one of the app’s developers, Ellen McGinnis, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Vermont’s Center for Children, Youth, and Families at the University of Vermont, and a trained clinical psychologist.

“That means they’re not only difficult to treat in a traditional therapy setting, because a panic attack is hard to induce, but also that the one intervention that does seem to work for people—biofeedback—isn’t available when it’s needed.”

Read more »
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