NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s only natural for preteens and teens to want to talk more to their friends than their parents. But, those who investigate sex crimes against children said that’s really the time when parents need to talk more with their kids.
Teens are often threatened not to tell others about something bad happening to them. Some believe they’re actually in a relationship with the abuser.
“People in power, like teachers, I think nobody’s looking at them. They don’t fit your stereotypes. You know, we don’t see them as criminals. We certainly don’t think of them as child molesters,” said Lindsey Honea, who is a forensic interviewer with Davis House Child Advocacy Center.
Honea said 90% of children know their abuser. “It’s usually someone they love and trust. And when they’re not abusing, they’re great.”
She has conducted more than 500 child forensic interviews in Hickman, Lewis, Perry and Williamson Counties with the Davis House.
She said it’s never been more important to speak to your teenagers. “In a world where it takes two parents to make ends meet, they’re going to be staying with caregivers.” Honea continued, “You got school environment, before school, after school, coach environments, church environments, your friends’ homes. There are many more places where my kids are without me than they are with me.”
Based on statistics, Honea said, parents shouldn’t hold off on having talks.
“If they have not had anything happen close to home yet, it’s coming. Or, if they don’t think it has happened, it most likely has,” she claimed.
It’s important for parents to understand close relationships with the abuser make it even more difficult for teens and pre-teens to speak up.
Honea often heard in her interviews, “This is gonna get that person in trouble. That’s not what I wanted. I just wanted the abuse to stop.”
Abusers know your children very well and use what they love against them, often saying, “If you tell, I will kick you off the team. I will give you a failing grade.”
These people in authority are master manipulators.
Honea suggested bringing up the topic casually in conversation first, instead of interrogating your child right off the bat.
“‘Oh, gosh, another story about yada yada, like, it’s everywhere. Do you feel like you know people in your life that this has affected?’ And if they can say yes, and most likely they can, then you have a conversation about it.”
Conversations should eventually become more purposeful reminding your teen you will always believe them, love them, and support them if something happens.
“The last person that I want to tell is that person who’s going to say, ‘I told you so. We talked about this. Why didn’t you listen to me? Why didn’t you come to me first?'”
Predators often take the relationship to technology so parents need to look there too.
“Sometimes that means I’m literally going to take your phone and check it,” she said. “Not because I don’t trust you, just making sure that other people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
Also, take notice if an adult gives your child extra attention or spends one-on-one time with them alone. That could be a red flag.
Honea also suggested parent groups should have these kind of conversations amongst themselves. If all the teens and their parents are on the same page, then there’s more of a chance something will be noticed early on.
People in positions of authority are preying on Tennessee children. News 2 investigates the disturbing trend and shares important information that parents need to know in our special reports Position of Authority.