ATSA’s origins date back to the early 1980s, when a group of Oregon treatment providers, researchers, and other practitioners began meeting each month to discuss assessment methods and treatment options for sexually aggressive adults in Oregon State Hospital and other institutions. From these monthly lunch meetings emerged a shared desire to develop practice standards for evaluating and treating sexual abusers. At that time, no such standards existed.
In late 1984, the group held a free workshop at Oregon State Hospital attended by practitioners from throughout the Pacific Northwest states and the Western Canadian provinces. The focus of the workshop was the use of plethysmographs. That conference led to the creation of an organization called the Association for the Behavioral Treatment of Sexual Aggressives. The group began producing a newsletter for members called the ABTSA Professional Forum.
Incorporation papers were filed in 1985, and the new association created a Board of Directors and standing committees. One of the first actions of ABTSA was to develop a code of ethics and conduct for treatment providers. To more accurately reflect the organization’s focus, ABTSA’s name was changed the following April to the Association for the Behavioral Treatment of Sexual Abusers.
ABTSA held its first conference in 1987 in Newport, Oregon. Subsequent conferences were held throughout the United States and Canada. As interest in the organization grew, so did conference attendance and membership. This growth expanded ABTSA’s focus to include research and treatment innovation. As a result, the word “Behavioral” was dropped from the association’s name in the early 1990s to more accurately represent ATSA’s broadening scope of inquiry.
As the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, ATSA grew into an international organization of more than 3,000 members representing approximately 20 countries. ATSA sets standards and practice guidelines for treatment providers; produces a code of ethics for practitioners; produces the highly ranked peer-reviewed journal, Sexual Abuse; hosts the world’s largest annual conference and leading educational venue for professionals working on issues related to the treatment, management, and research of sexual abuse; and provides Continuing Education classes to help practitioners gain and maintain up-to-date information on current research and evidence-based best practices.
In 2022, the Board of Directors recommended the organization expand their name to more accurately reflect the role members currently have in preventing sexual abuse and to recognize the diversity of professions ATSA members work (and study) in. The membership overwhelmingly voted to support the recommendation, and ATSA adopted its current name as The Association for the Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Abuse.
ATSA’s mission is to make society safer by preventing sexual abuse. To achieve that, ATSA continues to support and promote sound research, effective practice, informed policy, and comprehensive prevention strategies.