The Penn State case involving the alleged sexual abuse of multiple boys by a respected coach and supposed child advocate has put many parents on edge. We cannot be with our children every minute of every day. Prevention doesn't mean, however, that we should lock our children in the house and withdraw from society.
Prevention does mean being more involved in our children's lives, listening to them and asking questions of those in charge when something doesn't seem right.
Harmony House Children's Advocacy Center in Wheeling and St. Clairsville also suggests teaching children about good and bad secrets. The agency offers a free program on the subject available for groups of children ages preschool through fifth grade. Call 304-230-2205 to inquire.
OK secrets include someone having a surprise party or keeping a birthday or Christmas gift a secret. Not-OK secrets include an adult or another child touching, asking a child to touch, look at or talk about private parts. Children should be taught to tell you or a safe adult if they are asked to keep secrets or are being hurt. Harmony House reminds parents that 30 percent of victims never disclose to anyone, and in 90 percent of child sex abuse cases, the perpetrator is known to the child.
Next, it is imperative that parents be able to recognize the signs of sexual abuse. Prevent Child Abuse America, www.preventchilabuse. org, states we should consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the child:
- has difficulty walking or sitting;
- suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities; or
- demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior.
If you suspect abuse or if a child tells you he or she has been abused, parents immediately should notify law enforcement or call the National Child Abuse Prevention hotline run by Childhelp, 1-800-4-A-CHILD (422-4453), to be connected to the appropriate reporting agency.