NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s a gruesome reality for Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent, Robert Burghardt, and dozens of others dedicated to investigating and prosecuting sex crimes against children. 

“The things we see a human should probably never see in their life.”

Burghardt continues, “You see it on the news and you think eh, it won’t happen here, but it does. It happens every day throughout the state of Tennessee.” 

Whether it’s child pornography, illegal social media exchanges, or physical sexual abuse, these horrific crimes do happen in the area we call home. 

“Parents really have to wake up,” urges Sue Fort White the Executive Director of Our Kids in Middle Tennessee. 

According to Fort White, one in four girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused before age 18. “That’s an epidemic, ” she said.

Victims of sexual abuse

Experts at Our Kids perform medical forensic evaluations and provide crisis counseling to children following allegations or concerns of sexual abuse. 

“This is not a 20 min medical transaction,” Fort White explained, “this is an intense encounter that lasts between an hour and a half and four hours.” 

In 2019, the agency treated 940 children; their highest patient volume in a single year, to date. 

“Out of the 940 children we saw 95% of the time, the perpetrator has been someone that is known, trusted, and even loved by the family,” says Fort White.

Relationship to victims

And for every story, there are thousands more untold. 

Research by the Child Advocacy Center found 88% of child sexual abuse incidents are never reported. 

The internet has become an invitation for predators gaining direct access to your children. 

“You wouldn’t let a stranger go in your bedroom or bathroom with your child alone, but that’s what we’re doing,” Burghardt said.

Cybercrime units are now forced to take proactive approaches. 

Detectives create profiles, posing as young teens, on common social apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, and TikTok. 

It doesn’t take long for criminals to reach out to them. “I’ve had over a dozen people reply within minutes,” reveals Burghardt. 

It’s difficult for parents to comprehend. No one wants to believe their child would send explicit photos to anyone, let alone strangers. 

But it’s happening urges Fort White, “believing and protecting is huge. And, sometimes believing takes more than a minute, but protecting can start right now.” 

News 2 is investigating new trends and tactics being used by adults who prey on children. Click here to see more from “Unspeakable Crimes: What Parents Need to Know”.