Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Carol Buck-Rolland



Background. Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is a silent, but pervasive concern across the United States, the prevalence of which is often vastly underestimated. Some research indicates that as many as one in four girls and one in six boys become victims of CSA. CSA is classified as an adverse childhood experience (ACE), which has been shown to have serious longstanding negative physical, emotional, and mental health impacts. The pediatric primary healthcare provider is well posed to intervene to detect and prevent the occurrence of CSA.

Objective. The overall goal of this study is to gain an understanding of the current state of sexual abuse screening and prevention in pediatric primary care settings in the state of Vermont.

Methods. An anonymous, 20-item survey was distributed to Vermont pediatric primary care providers via the electronic mailing lists of three Vermont-based professional organizations for healthcare providers. The online survey was conducted with the Limesurvey software through the secure University of Vermont server. The survey remained active for three weeks, and potential participants received three weekly reminder emails inviting them to complete the survey. As an incentive for volunteer participation in the study, all participants received a list of the available local, statewide, and national resources available to them to assist in sexual abuse detection and prevention following survey completion.

Results. There were 37 participants who completed the survey. The groups were divided based on professional title, patient population, years of experience in practice, geographic location, and access to a social worker. Each of these groups was analyzed against the survey data to determine any underlying trends that existed.

Conclusions. Nurse practitioners were found to be more likely than physicians to routinely screen every child and their caregivers during health supervision visits. NPs were also more likely to report that the electronic health record prompted these screenings. A positive correlation was found between the likelihood of routinely screening children and increased provider confidence with screening. However, no differences were found between NPs and physicians in confidence with screening, nor were there differences in perceived educational sufficiency between the two groups.

Across all professional titles, pediatric providers reported greater confidence in their ability to detect risk factors and red flags than family practice providers. A greater perceived sufficiency of education was positively correlated with provider confidence and comfort with screening. Educational sufficiency was also positively correlated with the perception that area resources are highly available and are effectively used in practice.

Time was reported as the greatest barrier to screening and prevention by those who have the highest perceptions of their ability to make an impact on prevention. Also, those who felt that there were highly available and accessible resources at their disposal also reported time as their greatest barrier. Additionally, those who reported greater than 20 years of experience in practice were significantly less likely to view access to the patient as the greatest barrier that providers face in their efforts to detect and prevent sexual abuse. Further study is indicated to confirm these findings.



Number of Pages

67 p.