Taking notice of the rising concern over sexual abuse of children, thousands of schools across the country have initiated programs to teach students how to deal with sexually aggressive adults. The programs frequently include skits starring "Uncle Harry," a character created by the Child Assault Prevention Project (CAP). In one skit Uncle Harry offers Sally, his seven-year-old niece, a Michael Jackson T-shirt if she'll give him "one of those kisses I like." Sally refuses "I think I hear Aunt Mary coming home," she says and threatens to tell Mom and Aunt Mary about Uncle Harry's passes.

Most programs encourage children to report any unusual physical advances by an adult, even if the adult has threatened the child. "An offender will scare a kid," says a CAP worker, "and tell him his parents won't love him anymore. So you have to diffuse this strategy ahead of time."

Millions of children have seen skits and attended classes by CAP and other groups, and these programs seem to be starting to have an effect. In California, where the state government has passed an $11.25-million bill to fund programs for combatting sexual abuse of children, reports of offenses have shot up forty-four percent. And in Maryland's Montgomery County, which has recently increased the anti-abuse curriculum in its public schools, reports have quadrupled.

On the one hand, these statistics are cause for optimism. Kids are learning to talk, to object, to resist. On the other hand, an increase in the reporting of sexual abuse of children doesn't exactly mean that abuse is decreasing, that offenders are getting discouraged. Is "Uncle Harry" really going to listen to a seven-year-old's threats, or worry about being incriminated by a child's testimony? Not always.

To put an end to sexual abuse of children, we need to look more closely at the nature of sex desire. The Manu-samhita, part of the ancient Vedic literatures of India, compares sex desire to fire. Like fire, sex desire increases when supplied with "fuel." For example, a man and woman may feel satiated immediately after sexual intercourse; they may feel that their sexual fire has been extinguished. But that feeling is temporary. In time they will try to increase the frequency and intensity of their encounters to enjoy unlimitedly.

That, of course, is impossible. Since one's physical capacity for sex is limited, the expansive fire of sexual desires can never be fulfilled. In other words, a primary product of sex enjoyment is dissatisfaction.

In the attempt to alleviate this dissatisfaction, one common tactic is to change partners. If we can't increase the frequency of sex, then at least we can increase the number of our mates. This tactic has, over the past few decades, resulted in the decay of the institution of marriage. Close to fifty percent of all marriages now end in divorce, with millions of men, women, and children getting severely burned in the process.

Changing partners only adds more fuel to the fire of sex desire, forcing frustrated individuals to seek further alternatives. If more sex with more partners proves dissatisfying, then what next? Well, how about changing the kind of partner? How about bisexuality, homosexuality, bestiality, incest? Get the sexual fire hot enough, and anything goes even child abuse.

So although a growing number of programs such as CAP evidences a sincere concern among teachers and parents, it also evidences a surprising naivete. Attempting to stop child abuse by getting kids to tell Uncle Harry to cut it out is like trying to stop a forest fire with a garden hose. We need to significantly reduce the size of the fire if we seriously expect to protect our children from getting burned.

Although someone might propose that it is possible to fan the fire of sexual desire without becoming child molesters, that is a risky proposal. Until we learn that sex, like fire, has to be restricted and controlled, we can expect the conflagration of sexual abuse of children to continue blazing.