How Good Are We at Keeping Kids Safe?, with Laura Avery and Katherine Stewart

Season 6Episode 9June 27, 2024

When it comes to child sexual abuse and exploitation, a new study of 28 states shows we’re not doing very well. So what can we do about it? Please take a listen.

When it comes to child sexual abuse and exploitation, a new look at the U.S. shows we’re not doing very well. Economist Impact’s Out of the Shadows Index report, supported by World Childhood Foundation USA, sets key indicators for performance on child sexual abuse and exploitation prevention and intervention. And it benchmarks against those indicators in 28 different states—and counting; there will eventually be another report.

Sadly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, all states measured so far have really struggled. And if this were a report card, the best performing state would only have a D. What this means for kids is that, as a nation, our safeguarding is wholly inadequate and our response system woefully underfunded.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. We invited Laura Avery and Katherine Stewart, the authors of the report, to talk to us about the report and how by being able to pinpoint weaknesses and challenges, we can develop state-specific roadmaps for improvement in child protection. If you haven’t already read the report, please make sure you do. You can find a link to it in our show notes. And for a compass to better outcomes for kids, please take a listen.


Topics in this episode:

1:31 – Origin story

4:49 – Tighten up the metrics

7:36 – How states fared

9:16 – What the index covers

11:28 – Biggest weaknesses

19:27 – Bright spots

22:03 – State wealth; statutes of limitations

29:32 – Expanding the study

31:54 – Policy maker response

35:00 – Magic wand

42:36 – For more information



Laura Avery, senior analyst, Policy & Insights, Economist Impact

Katherine Stewart, principal, New Globalisation, and lead, Benchmarking, Policy & Insights, Economist Impact

U.S. Out of the Shadows Index (2024) and the 2022 pilot

Link to full 2024 report and 28 state reports: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming

Global Out of the Shadows Index report (2022)

Listen to our episode on the 2022 U.S. pilot: “America’s Inconsistent Response to Child Sexual Abuse,” with Araceli Irurzun Pérez (Season 4, Episode 20; November 17, 2022)

Childhood USA, World Childhood Foundation in the U.S.

1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child


Marci Hamilton has been our guest twice; the episode that focused on the legal landscape for survivors of child sexual abuse, including statute of limitation reform, was “Radically Vulnerable: Achieving Justice for Survivors” (Season 1, Episode 10; September 30, 2019)

Brave Movement

Previous episodes on prevention—search for “prevention” on this site to find our previous interviews on the topic

For more information about National Children’s Alliance and the work of Children’s Advocacy Centers, visit our website at And join us on Facebook at One in Ten podcast.

Season 6, Episode 9

“How Good Are We Are Keeping Kids Safe?”, with Laura Avery and Katherine Stewart

[Intro music]


[00:09] Teresa Huizar:
Hi, I’m Teresa Huizar, your host of One in Ten. In today’s episode, “How Good Are We at Keeping Kids Safe?”, I speak with Laura Avery and Katherine Stewart, authors of the Economist Impact Out of the Shadows Index report. This index sets key indicators for performance on child sexual abuse and exploitation prevention and intervention. And it benchmarks against those indicators in 28 different states—and counting; there will eventually be another report.

Sadly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, all states measured so far have really struggled. And if this were a report card, the best performing state would only have a D. What this means for kids is that, as a nation, our safeguarding is wholly inadequate and our response system woefully underfunded.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. As you will hear, by being able to pinpoint weaknesses and challenges, we can develop state-specific roadmaps for improvement in child protection. If you haven’t already read the report, please make sure you do. And you can find it in our show notes.

And for a compass to better outcomes for kids, please take a listen.

[Intro music begins to fade out]

[01:31] Teresa Huizar:
Hi, Katherine and Laura. Welcome to One in Ten.

Katherine Stewart:
Thank you, Teresa. So nice to be here.

[01:37] Teresa Huizar:
I, first of all, loved the original Out of the Shadows report and even more delighted—well, actually, it’s like, which do you consider your original report? But anyway, we won’t even get into that now. I’m delighted to talk to you again about the next report, which is how we’ll refer to it here, the next report.

Because I think what really excited me right from the beginning with the project that you all had with World Childhood is that it was the first time that somebody had really gone to the trouble of sort of saying, you know, what is the bar we should be trying to achieve across lots of domains when looking at child sexual abuse and public policy? And then secondly, how are we performing against that in states? And so for those folks who may not have heard the interview that we did on the first wave of states, can you guys just talk for just a minute about what was the genesis for this whole thing? How did this entire project originate?

Katherine Stewart:
Absolutely, so, back about almost eight years ago now, we started talking with Childhood USA, or the World Childhood Foundation in the U.S., around the fact that there hadn’t been that much progress since the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child in tracking global level response to and prevention of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

And so this journey actually started with a global study looking at 60 countries around this same issue. And when we launched that global study, a lot of countries responded really well, but the U. S. just would not pick this up. And as we started trying to dig into why that was happening, the response we got is, “Honestly, we don’t care very much how we compare with the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Japan. We want to understand how we are comparing against our fellow states.” And obviously, the U.S. is really complicated on this issue because it’s a federalist system. So that sparked the desire to take our original global Out of the Shadows Index framework, tailor it to the U.S. context, and then start trying to assess states in order (A) to just understand how the federalist system is impacting the protection of children in the U.S. But also hopefully to draw some attention to this issue that’s uncomfortable.

No one wants to really speak about child sexual exploitation and abuse. I think over time, we’ve had more and more conversations. The rise of the internet has given us more ways to talk about this issue. Obviously, you know, you’ve had Ashton Kutcher in Congress talking about this. You have Jeffrey Epstein. There is more focus now, but to try and pull this issue up the agenda. So that’s sort of where we started and how we got here.

[04:33] Teresa Huizar:
And then, to date, you all have looked at how many states?

Laura Avery:
So to date we have looked at 28 states. The pilot Out of the Shadows Index looked at 12, and the second iteration we added an additional 16 states to the assessment.

[04:49] Teresa Huizar:
Wonderful. And, you know, for folks who have not yet had the opportunity to read the report—and they should, they should read both in full. So folks, those are linked in our show notes and you’ll be able to go directly to that from our website, the podcast website. So make sure you do that. But I just wonder, you know, what changed in terms of your methodology from the pilot? Because I do think there were some changes that were made or tweaks anyway to this most recent version.

Laura Avery:
So the pilot index was in essence a pilot. So we really wanted to test out a number of indicators. So we started by building this framework, the index framework, and we centered it around this fundamental question, which was: What does a holistic response to child sexual abuse look like? From preventing Abuse from occurring against children initially to responding in a child-centered and trauma-informed way.

And because again, it was a pilot, we didn’t know how every indicator was going to play out. So, in essence, we tested each metric by scoring, by looking at each state against all of these indicators to understand how effective they were in measuring progress on this issue. So after the pilot, we really went back and looked at whether each indicator told us what we needed to know about states’ progress on this issue.

So, from the pilot to the second iteration, we really refined some of the indicators. A few were removed. A few were added, depending on whether, you know, some key issues came up that we decided weren’t covered as comprehensively as we wanted. And then again, a few were refined. So we went in and said, you know, we need to tweak this scoring. We want to look at this in a bit more depth with a bit more nuance. Many adjustments were made from one to the next.

Katherine Stewart:
I think, just to add quickly to that, more often than not, we realize that, given how complicated a lot of these issues are, in the refinement we have to be more specific around what we are asking. So, you know, in some cases states that in the pilot received credit for a question actually didn’t the second time around because of the structures we put into those questions asking about, you know, are you giving training to your law enforcement who are responding to child sexual abuse cases at defined intervals? What do those defined intervals look like? Those type of questions versus the more blanket, are you training law enforcement who are responding to child sexual abuse cases?

Teresa Huizar:
You tightened up the metrics.

Katherine Stewart:

Teresa Huizar:
Interesting. And then, of course, that shifted how people performed based on that once you started making the metrics more sensitive. Yeah. Interesting.

So I’m wondering, when you did this again with these new set of states and you’ve refined the metrics to some degree, what surprised you in your findings?

Katherine Stewart:
I guess, to be fair, we weren’t actually that surprised because we started to, after the pilot, have an indication that the U.S. is just not doing very well on this issue.

However, I think what really did hit home is that the highest scoring state, in an index that scores 0 to 100, scored a 60. If you look at the way we grade students in the U.S., if you get a 60, you are basically getting a failing grade. So we’re failing children. And we kept hoping that we would find a state that has figured out how to crack this challenge, who has, you know, built a prevention system that is effective and has built responses that are child-centered, trauma-informed, survivor-centered. And there just doesn’t seem to be a state yet. And I think, going into the next iteration of this program, as we continue to push towards all 50 states, we’re not convinced anymore we’re going to find a state that’s cracked this. And, while that’s not necessarily surprising, it’s extremely disappointing.

We want to hope that a country like the U.S. is doing more for its children. So that, I think, to us is the most heavy-hitting part of this program, is just how far behind we are.

[09:16] Teresa Huizar:
So, for folks who may not be as familiar with the framework, can you just talk broadly about the sort of different domains that, you know, not every single indicator under them, but the broad domains that the index covers?

Katherine Stewart:
Sure, so let me start off and then I will hand it over to Laura, but essentially we look at two facets of this issue. The first is prevention, and under prevention, we have two buckets of indicators. The first looks at the legal framework. And I think that’s something that all of us are pretty familiar with. So, do you have criminal provisions that make sexually abusing children illegal? What do those provisions look like? How specific are they? How responsive are they to the idea that perhaps if you get sexually abused when you’re 5 or 10, you don’t recognize that, or you don’t have the opportunity to come forward, until you’re 30, 40, 50. So that’s the first part of the prevention framework, or prevention pillar.

The second looks more at prevention strategies and structures. So are you training teachers to recognize potential risks and potential signs of child sexual abuse? Or do you have a strategy and a policy in the state focused on addressing child sexual abuse prevention? Do you have a dating violence policy? Some of these other factors.

And then on the response side, we look at, again, some of the response systems that are in place to support victim survivors, and then some of the training for those response actors.

Laura, I don’t know if you want to dig in any more as well around any of these issues.

Laura Avery:
I think you covered the general framework pretty well. I think one other thing I would add from the pilot to the second iteration is that we did add a few additional indicators looking at specifically online violence against children, just because that’s such a important issue and topical issue right now that the country is talking about. So we did add a few additional indicators, which both the original pilot states and the new states have been scored against.

[11:28] Teresa Huizar:
When you look across all 28 states, and even though knowing that no state performed particularly well, are there things that you say were especially noticeable weaknesses, especially noticeable challenges for states?

Laura Avery:
Yes, so I think prevention was a big area of weakness that we found consistently across states. I think just four states had a state strategy for addressing this issue. So with real clear objectives and measurable kind of action steps to address this issue. And we found no state had a state strategy that looked at online child sexual abuse.

Teresa Huizar:
Oh, interesting.

Laura Avery:
So that was a major area that we identified as a gap. I don’t know, Katherine, was there any other issue that you’d call out here?

Katherine Stewart:
I think the other one that that really struck home for us is both on the prevention and the response side. A lot of the key actors and stakeholders who are engaging with children are just not getting the training they need to be prepared for this issue.

And that comes in two forms. One, it’s prepared to recognize it’s going on. And the second is being prepared once you encounter it, and you encounter a child who’s experienced this type of abuse, how to effectively help them through the response process, and that’s, I think, particularly striking. I mean, you’re asking teachers, daycare employees, law enforcement, judges, medical personnel to—or Children’s Advocacy Centers—to take on these really difficult tasks in working with children who experience this issue and this and this risk and, honestly, this trauma and you’re not giving them the tools to do that.

And so I think that’s a particularly concerning finding as well.

[13:30] Teresa Huizar:
You know, let’s talk about the both of these, but starting with the online abuse angle of it. I’m not surprised that you found that there’s not a comprehensive, you know, public policy framework or strategy around that. We see that at the federal level, too.

I’m curious about in the interviews and other things that you did in talking with some key informants and key stakeholders: Why? You know, it’s not like the internet was developed yesterday. So I’m just, I’m curious about now, decades later, why we seem to be, you know, still so far behind in this area?

Katherine Stewart:
I think it’s a really interesting question. And I think it’s tied to the fact that protecting children online has gotten tied up into kind of data privacy, personal rights on the internet. We’ve conflated two issues that actually aren’t the same. Because if you ask anyone, “Do you think children should be sexually abused in online spaces?” No, one’s going to tell you “yes.” And if they do, then we have a much bigger problem, bigger societal problem than just the fact we can’t legislate online safety.

But I think when you ask people, “Do you want your WhatsApp messages read?”, people automatically their response would be, “Well, no, I don’t. I want to end-to-end encryption.” We haven’t been able to strike the balance between dealing with, “No, we do not want children to be sexually abused in online environments,” and “We definitely don’t want our WhatsApp messages read.” And until we find a way to strike that balance, until we actually bring stakeholders who, you know, tech companies forward, and we create some sort of co-working session group to find a balance between these two, I’m not sure we’re going to have sufficient protection for children online and sufficient response to this issue.

I mean, there’s, you know, debate—should you get rid of funding for NCMEC?—that are happening right now. And how is that going to help the situation? I know it might seem like it’s violating privacy rights, but at what point do you cross a boundary beyond where privacy rights no longer matter? And I think that’s the complication, and I’m not sure anyone actually knows the answer right now.

[15:58] Teresa Huizar:
Well, certainly, I feel like nobody in the U.S. does. I mean, this is where it doesn’t help us that we’re a little parochial in our interests and unwilling to look at what people in other countries do. Because I do feel like Europe has had a better grasp of this and have been doing more work on sort of at least attempting to find this balance between privacy and online safe spaces for kids in a way that we don’t seem to have done yet.

So I’m wondering, you know, you raised a really interesting thing on the intervention side about the fact that there’s very little in the way of required training for many of the actors who are involved in not only the prevention but the intervention in child sexual abuse and exploitation—and even less funding for it. You know, even if there is some training mandated, there’s very little in the way, I think, of public support—financial support, I’m talking about for that.

And, you know, we see that at CACs as folks who, because our standards require Children’s Advocacy Centers not only to have training themselves but to provide a certain amount of that to their team counterparts on various things, essentially nonprofits have underwritten the cost of training these team partners and making that training available. And often, frankly, what’s being provided by the CAC is the only training on child sexual abuse that any of these individuals are getting. So I just, I wonder why you think that is? Because if you look—let’s take law enforcement, for example. They have lots of training about lots of things, right? I mean, we don’t put people in the street and not teach them how to respond to crime and how to investigate crime. And, you know, here’s a, you know, here’s your weapons training, which all of them have to go to the range and get certified on every year.

So why is it that when it comes to child sexual abuse and online exploitation, why do you think that we haven’t quite managed to get to the same place where it’s a routine part of training? Or you could pick any discipline. I mean, I’m just using that as an example.

Laura Avery:
Yeah. I think one thing we heard here from a number of interviews we did with individuals working in this space was that often it required a champion within the legislature to really take this issue on and make it like a centerpiece for them and part of their mission to introduce training.

And that usually was not specific to child sexual abuse. It often had to do with kind of sexual violence more broadly. So, training generally on sexual violence for law enforcement and and other actors. But yeah, it really often came down to one individual who is championing this and the need for this training and greater kind of sensitivity to this issue and understanding of this issue and recognition of this issue.

So that’s one thing that comes to mind.

Katherine Stewart:
I think there’s also this idea it’s a really uncomfortable issue. It’s hard for those of us sitting here who work on this, who think about it regularly, to say that, like, we think it should not be a challenging or taboo issue at all. But for most people it is. It happens behind closed doors, literally, most of the time. And so when you can focus on how to chase down pickpockets, or even how to, you know, undertake forensics to find murderers. That’s a lot more out in the open than something like this. And so I think if you don’t have this champion, as Laura said, it’s really easy to slide this under the rug and forget about it.

[19:27] Teresa Huizar:
I’m wondering if, we’ve been talking for—and I mean, honestly, because the scores were so low, we could spend the entire time we’re talking, talking about all the weaknesses and deficits. But I’m wondering, were there any bright spots along the way? Not in terms of a state’s overall performance, but some examples of things that you go, “You know what, that’s worth looking further into,” or “This is an example worth highlighting,” or at least continuing to track its performance because it points to something that might be helpful for more states to take on or do.

Katherine Stewart:
Well, I was just thinking, to kind of tie back to your last question as well. We did find that states that have more female legislators in their state legislatures perform slightly better across a variety of metrics. And so I do think there’s this bright spot that, at risk of sounding extremely anti-patriarchy, that as we continue to push women forward within the U.S., as they’re taking on more roles in government, hopefully more roles in companies, more roles maybe in law enforcement, that this issue does move up the chain a bit more.

And so I think for us, that was something that was particularly interesting to see. It was the first time we had considered this as a metric within the index. We didn’t in the pilot. And something like that gives a little bit of hope that if we start putting a more varied group of people into office, maybe we have a chance of actually pulling this issue out from being behind the closed door, under the rug, whatever phrase you want to use.

Sorry, that was slightly tangential, but just something that came to mind.

[21:15] Teresa Huizar:
No, I hope Emily’s List is listening to this even as we speak. They may be a new partner on this for us. You know, do you think that that’s because—because I read that and I was, I was like, “Oh, this is interesting.” Do you think that is because, I mean, frankly, women are much more likely to experience sexual violence across their whole lifespan, so this is not a rare thing for women to talk about amongst themselves, with their friends, those kinds of things, or something else?

Katherine Stewart:
I think that’s certainly part of it. I also think probably, I mean, more women stay at home with children. They are more directly responsible consistently for a child not walking in front of a car or, you know, a child not getting kidnapped in the playground. And that also applies to a certain degree to a child not being abused in any way, shape, or form. So I think it’s probably a combination of those two.

[22:03] Teresa Huizar:
Interesting. You know, one other thing—and I feel like I may have cut you off on about another example you want to talk to, and I’ll come back to it in just a second—but what you’re talking about now made me think of another sort of surprising, I don’t know if it’s a finding or not, but surprising, which was really that performance wasn’t driven by wealth, the wealth of a state.

And I found that really interesting because we hear this a lot, you know, when we’re talking about—doesn’t matter if you’re talking about child sexual abuse or education or almost anything. You hear, “Well, we’re a poor state.” You know, so it’s sort of like it’s to be expected that we’re not going to perform well on these. But can you talk a little bit about sort of why you think that it doesn’t seem to be driven by wealth?

I mean, I see this as a bright spot, by the way, because it gives a lot of hope for a lot of states that may not be in that top tier of wealth to say there’s still a lot of good you can do, but I’m just curious about why it’s so.

Katherine Stewart:
There’s a couple of things that, that we can attribute at least part of this to. I don’t pretend to know the entire answer. I think it goes back, again, if you have a champion, then it doesn’t matter what the wealth of your state is. A lot of these procedures, these interventions, they don’t actually take a huge amount of funding, right? If you’re passing a law saying you need to have child sexual abuse prevention education in school, what do you need to do? You need to pass the law. You need to design a curriculum. You need to teach people how to teach the curriculum. Once you’ve done that, it just becomes a natural part of the education system. So I think that might be part of it, that if you have a champion, or you have a situation—we saw that there was some unexpected states who actually had pretty good legislation and some kind of prevention programs in place. And that was because they had been hammered so hard publicly for previous incidents that they had to do something about it. So I think it’s a combination of those things in part that can push states without huge budgets up the chain.

I don’t know, Laura, if you have anything you want to add there.

Laura Avery:
We also heard about kind of relationship building and political will and how those factor in as well. So we heard from a number of the NCA State Chapter directors that they have done a lot to build relationships with policy makers so that they really understand this issue.

Obviously money is important in terms of many factors, of implementation of these initiatives, but in terms of really building understanding, it takes a lot. You know, they often have them come visit the CAC sites to really educate them about the work that they’re doing, the impacts on children that sexual violence really has, the long term—so not just the short-term impacts, but the long-term impacts and the repercussions of that across a child’s lifetime.

So there’s a lot of education relationship-building and awareness that goes on as well. That’s just as important as the wealth factor, I think.

[24:57] Teresa Huizar:
So interesting. I think it just points out how, at the end of the day, public policy is as much about relationships and the education that comes along with that, and the trust that comes along with that, as it is about any other thing, including data or money. So interesting.

Are there other examples of kind of bright spots where you say, “You know, this is something where we at least see one good example of someone doing something in this space. That is something that others should consider”?

Laura Avery:
I think one area where there has been a lot of action recently is statute of limitation reform. And I think, I’m not sure why this is exactly. I think it might just be a trend. It’s a really positive trend to see states moving on this issue. Again, not sure quite why, but we have seen a lot of progress in recent years to both on criminal and civil statute of limitation reform.

[25:53] Teresa Huizar:
Well, I will say that one driving force behind that has been Marci Hamilton at Child USA, who has made it her life’s mission to address statute of limitations reforms and really rallied survivors and the legal community around that. Which I think, they’ve had really wonderful success and a really clear strategy, I think, around that. So not just taking it piecemeal, but really state by state by state, working for that reform and having a lot of success with it.

But I think that—and I don’t want to speak for Marci here, so I hope you all will interview her for a future iteration of one of your reports. But I think that one of the things kind of back to your—I think astute comment about sort of “don’t waste a crises.” I think that the interest in statute of limitations reform in the U.S. really came on the heels of some very large victim cases in which maybe out of two or three hundred victims, or a hundred victims, you could only prosecute the offender on two or three of the cases because so many of the others were old. And in those states that have not had statutes of limitations reforms, really hundreds of victims were never going to see any justice at all.

And so I think that that really galvanized many states to a willingness to look at this issue because it became so clear to the general public that that’s—it’s not right, you know, it’s not right that if you’ve been abused and you were terrified and you couldn’t come forward right away that you should never have any justice at all. Or if some offender is going to be held accountable, you’re going to be held accountable for only a few things, but not for all the terrible things that were done to you. And so I think, I always like to think that as a culture, you know, maybe we’re not advancing as fast as we’d like, but at the same time, public sentiment has changed over the years on these issues. And I think the general public now sees it more as a fairness issue than perhaps they did at one time. So anyway, that’s just my 2 cents worth, but Marci’s the expert. So talk to her.

Laura Avery:
We absolutely will.

Katherine Stewart:
I also think, if we were to go through 95% of the questions that are included in the index, we could probably find at least one state that has a good example of what you can do, how you approach this issue. They’ve put some emphasis on it. And so it’s not quite, it’s not all doom and gloom. Collectively, it’s pretty gloomy. But there are enough roadmaps for these issues across the country. Even just the 28 states that we’ve looked at to say: “If you are a state that doesn’t have this in place, here’s an example you can go look at and analyze and assess and use as a base to build your own approach to dealing with this specific facet of child sexual exploitation and abuse.”

And so I think there’s a lot that’s happened. It’s just sporadic. It’s patchy. It’s not being discussed. I mean, there’s not there’s not a ton of media around: “Oh, we passed this new law, you know, that explains how you can get medical support services if you are a minor who has been subject to sexual abuse without parental consent.” No one’s publishing that. And so perhaps we just also need to be more bold in encouraging the great action that is happening to be part of public discussion.

[29:32] Teresa Huizar:
I did note that in your report, you had a spread that did show, you know, The three states that were a D minus, at least, or whatever it is.

Katherine Stewart:
That’s about right, yeah.

Teresa Huizar:
Against all the red, you know. And so, and I think that there might have been a case example or two in in that area.

I’m wondering—and sort of putting a plug, let me just be honest—that when all 50 states are done, which I feel positive thoughts sending your way for funding that that’ll happen, whether you will have some case studies out of this that, maybe you’re not able to provide 10 examples of someone doing something good but even providing one good example for any particular indicator is just enormously helpful as people use this as a roadmap.

Like, one of the things that drew me to this report in the first place was, I was like, this is so great. A state that’s getting, let’s say a 50 now, they could quickly look at their scores and go, “Here are four things we could do right today, you know, that would elevate our scores.” And so year after year, they can improve them.

And so it would be wonderful to see some additional supportive material. And not like you don’t have enough work to do, but—so don’t feel like you need to comment. I’m just putting this out in the universe, hoping that somebody will fund that work and that’ll be a part of some end game sometime.

Katherine Stewart:
Thank you for doing our financial plugging for us. We appreciate it.


Teresa Huizar:
Of course, of course! And they didn’t even pay me, listeners. So, I’m wondering—

Katherine Stewart:
We definitely didn’t. We have to put all the budget into the next stage.


Teresa Huizar:
It’s true. It’s true.


Teresa Huizar:
What’s been your—

Laura Avery:
Teresa—I’m sorry.

Teresa Huizar:
Go ahead, go ahead.

Laura Avery:
I’m just I’m quickly wondering if you did have a chance. I don’t know if you had a chance to look at the state profiles that we did for each state. We tried to be a bit more detailed there and highlight some really kind of key areas where individual states could improve to provide a bit more of a road map. So, you know, if a state doesn’t do very well on the index, they might be a bit overwhelmed. Where do they start? So the profiles were really a way for us to say, “Here are some key issues that we think would be really beneficial for policy makers to look at in your state.” So that’s one tool that we have, but we really hope to expand on what we do offer because there’s so much data in the index. So we really want to make it useful to people.


Teresa Huizar:
Oh, it already is.

Katherine Stewart:
I’m assuming most people don’t have time to go through the world’s biggest Excel book.

Teresa Huizar:
[Laughter] I can’t believe they don’t.

So one of the things that I’m wondering has been, what has been your response from policy makers to this?

Katherine Stewart:
Yeah, so we have gotten a few good responses, especially off of some of the state senators—

Teresa Huizar:

Katherine Stewart:
in various, states and in states that we might even say are surprising, like Florida. I think generally these issues are ones that, once you put something pretty simple in front of people and you remind them that the children in their state are not as safe as they could be, then you actually can start a conversation. So it’s this really interesting dynamic of: No one talks about it. No one thinks about it. You present it in some clear way. You’re showing the risks to children. And people become a little bit more open to having conversations.

So generally positive. But, we haven’t gotten a full kind of army of policy makers behind us yet. I think that’s ultimately the goal, right?

Teresa Huizar:

Katherine Stewart:
You need … you need a handful, at least to come on the journey enough to say, “This is going to become part of our, our platform for where we’re trying to go next.”

And I mean, actually, at the national level now, in the U.S., there’s been a little bit more progress on that. You have the Brave Movement that’s been advocating in the Biden administration for a while to kind of put survivors of child sexual abuse into decision making roles around some of these issues. And so hopefully that’s galvanizing kind of national support. But I think for things like changing sex sex education in a state, which obviously kind of a controversial topic right now in the U.S., but that’s okay. We’re going to keep going with it. We like controversy, right?

Teresa Huizar:
When it’s necessary, which in this case, it is.

Katherine Stewart:
It is necessary.

Teresa Huizar:

Katherine Stewart:
You need some, some pretty strong local backers. And so that’s kind of the next step in our process: How do we get those people to come on board and go on the journey with us?

[33:57] Teresa Huizar:
Yes, that is the age-old question, isn’t it? But I think that this data, as you say, is incredibly helpful. And I know that our own CACs and states, State Chapters have used this information, especially the state-specific reports, with effect. So, you know, keep sharing the data.

Because I think, for those in the field, the thing that we don’t have time to do is collect, analyze, and report out the data. So having that tool, it’s so useful. Because I think, you know, I can’t speak to the whole child abuse profession, but certainly for CACs, they’re used to advocating for kids, you know. It’s what they do every day. So talking to a policy maker is not so different from work they need to be doing at their own local level and those kinds of things.

So we really are just grateful that you all took on this project and really applied not only your expertise but also the credibility that comes with the Economist Impact being a part of it to an issue that often doesn’t have that kind of weight behind it.

If you could wave your magic wand—I’m giving you both a magic wand here for a minute. If you could wave your magic wand, what would you want? Top most, sort of a top three, what would you want policy makers most to do? Based on the information that you’ve provided them so far.

[Long pause]

Katherine Stewart:
Wow. I always ask this question to people as well. Like, what’s your three-point plan?

Laura Avery:

Teresa Huizar:

Katherine Stewart:
It’s much harder being on the receiving end of the question.

I think for me personally, the first of my three wishes, Genie, if you will, is to make prevention efforts inclusive.

Teresa Huizar:

Katherine Stewart:
So I think for us, we’ve seen, especially in kind of an increasingly divided U.S., that if you are a heterosexual white child, your chances of getting education and support that work for you are higher.

Teresa Huizar:

Katherine Stewart:
And while those children are also at risk, it’s often some of the other children—if you are not heterosexual, if you’re not white—who are even more at risk. And so I would love to see the programs being more inclusive. And I mean, take sex education in general. We found that of the 28 states, there’s six of them that are actively discriminating against LBGTQ+ children in giving them informed information about safe sex. That’s horrifying. And so I think that would be my first.

My second would be to focus on training the actors who are faced with this. Because if we train actors—the stakeholders who are engaging with children—maybe we can stop some of this before it ever happens. And that would be extremely empowering, and also extremely necessary to actually eradicate this issue.

And then I think my third would be that there’s actually some cohesion around this. I think there’s a lot of people doing a lot of really great stuff in pockets, and if we were able to merge some of those forces together, I think we could move forward a lot more quickly.

So that would be my three: inclusive, training, and cohesion. Laura?

Laura Avery:
All right. So I think the first, similar to Katherine, is just primary prevention. I think there needs to be a bigger focus on preventing this issue before it happens in the first place. And I think we are moving in that direction generally. You know, it used to be the criminal justice response was prioritized for a long time. And now more and more, the conversation is also about prevention. So kind of general, but yeah, a prevention focus, primary prevention focus.

I think second is really engaging those with lived experience. So victim survivors themselves, engaging them to understand how we can improve systems, what their experience was like going through the system, and building systems to make sure that the mistakes that were made don’t happen again. To make them victim-centered, trauma-informed. I think that’s—again, we’ve seen more and more states doing that. More and more states are holding roundtables, having discussions with victim survivors. But it needs to happen more.

And then the third is funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers. I think we have heard so many times the importance of Children’s Advocacy Centers in the response to child sexual abuse. They are instrumental. They are the heart of this. And funding, time and time again, was cited as the biggest challenge for them. And so I think really educating policy makers on the importance of funding and how far that funding can go. I definitely think is that’s my number three.

[38:59] Teresa Huizar:
Well, as my mother would say, from your lips to God’s ears


on the issue of funding Children’s Advocacy Centers.

What have I not asked you that I should have, or anything else that you wanted to make sure that we talked about today?

Katherine Stewart:
I think that actually, to kind of spin that around, would be: If you had three wishes of what we could do with this project, what would you want those to be?

Teresa Huizar:
Oh, gosh. Boy, I hate it when it gets turned around on me, just as you said.


But one is what I already mentioned. I think that learning from positive variants wherever you can find it is critical. I think that states don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Whether those examples come from other states or whether they come from around the world, I think the more examples we can give of success means that there’s sort of, you know, a ready-made pathway for people to at least try something, you know. You often get the response, “Well, you know, every state is different. It won’t work in my state. It wouldn’t work, you know, the way it works someplace else.” Well, you won’t know until you try it. That’s for sure. So I think that’s it.

I think secondly … I think as we think around prevention messaging for this issue, I would really like us to think about what’s effective. You know, there’s been some research recently done around prevention messaging, and I’d like to see that get a bigger highlight. Because I think that one of the things that happens with probably all research is that the audience for that is relatively small, and it doesn’t always reach all the people who need it who could actually do something with it. And so I think adding a little bit of a megaphone probably is my second one.

And thirdly is to do all 50 states. You know, like you, I don’t think, unfortunately, that we’re going to find a state that scores extremely well on all of the indicators, especially now that they include such clear measures. But what I am hopeful for is that all 50 states would have a clear sense of—and the District of Columbia—would have a sense of where they stand now and what the pathway is to improvements for kids, you know. And especially to my mind, taking on these issues around online abuse and exploitation. We’re just dreadfully far behind. And so whatever can be done across all 50 states to point out that we’ve got a lot of work to do, I think would be important to me.

So thank you for the question. And we’ll hope that whatever genie is out there grants them.

So thank you guys. You know, truly, I have been just so amazed by the great work that has been done here and the way in which we have had such good tools to use in our own advocacy efforts based on your good work. So truly appreciate you not just coming on to One in Ten but the underlying work, which has been so critically important. So thank you.

Katherine Stewart:
Thank you, Teresa. And I think we just want to acknowledge all the work that the National Children’s Alliance does. And of course, the CACs. And then also to acknowledge our partners on this journey, Childhood USA, who without them, this wouldn’t exist. So definitely a group effort, but thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

[Outro music starts]

[42:24] Teresa Huizar:
You’re welcome back anytime. When you have that next report, you just come right on back. We’ll talk about that one too.


Katherine Stewart:
Great. We’ll be there. We promise.

[42:32] Teresa Huizar:
Thank you, Laura. Thank you, Katherine.


[42:36] Teresa Huizar:
Thanks for listening to One in Ten. If you like this episode, please share it with a friend. And if you’re a fan of the show, please rate us in the Apple Podcasts store or wherever you listen. For more information about this episode or any of our others, please visit our podcast website at


[Outro music fades out]