What parents need to know to protect children from sexual abuse

Special Reports

Unspeakable Crimes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s an uncomfortable topic but so important to discuss — sexual abuse. Experts say talking to your child regularly about their body will make them more comfortable to come to you if someone makes them feel uncomfortable. 

“If you can be alert, not overlook it, and be educated on the subject matter than you can go a long way to helping keep children safe in this community,” said Executive Director of the David House Marcus Stamps. 

And, it’s all in the approach. A common mistake caregivers make is saying, “don’t let anyone touch you or your private parts.” Sue Fort White, the Executive Director for Our Kids, suggests a different approach. “A child is little and they don’t have the power to stop an adult, or even an older child, from doing something to them. They just don’t have the power. And when something does happen, they immediately think, uh oh. It’s my fault.” 

Instead say, “If anyone touches your private parts, it is always okay to tell me or someone else.” 

Unspeakable Crimes: What to ask Part 1

If you suspect something has happened, and are looking for outward signs of sexual abuse, oftentimes, there aren’t any. 

“Most of the time there is no genital injury. This is not like adult sexual assault. The perpetrator does not want to harm the child. They don’t want to lose access,” explained Fort White. 

While the thought of someone touching your child may create rage, never speak out of anger. 

Avoid phrases like, “I’ll kill anyone who touches you.” 

Victims are often sexually abused by relatives, family or caregivers who have a relationship with them. 

The child may feel responsible for keeping their abuser, or you, safe. 

Instead, stay calm and collected in front of your child. 

Stress that your job is to always protect them. 

Unspeakable Crimes: What to ask Part 2

Detectives Michael Adkins with Metro’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit (ICAC) weighed in urging parents to ban cell phone use at certain times. 

“If you allow your child to have their phone in their room at night, I guarantee you something bad is going to happen,” said Adkins. 

Consider a common area where phones charge until morning. 

Teens typically claim they’re just using it for an alarm clock. 

“Buy ’em an alarm clock,” Adkins said.

And remember, you are often the first and last line of defense for your child. 

Fort White explains, “If my child is going to someone’s house I need to ask the parent in charge, how many children are going to be here? What kind of supervision is in place? Are there going to be older children in the home tonight? Will they be supervised? What kind of access to the internet are these children going to have? Don’t be afraid to be in an awkward moment because you’re concerned about your child’s safety.” 

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”.

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