SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A culture of silence still persists in Utah among parents when it comes to talking about sex, and more importantly, child sexual abuse – according to child abuse prevention experts.
While it may be a difficult topic to discuss, Prevent Child Abuse Utah specialists remind parents it’s extremely important to teach children early and often that their body belongs to them. Wednesday, news broke of a 70-year-old man who allegedly had sexually abused multiple children in West Valley City between 1983 and 1997.
While it may not prevent all cases of abuse, talking to kids will empower them with knowledge, experts said Wednesday.
“Talk to them how no one has the right to touch you on the private parts of your body,“ said Cortney Bramlette, lead prevention specialist at Prevent Child Abuse Utah. “Teach them to say ‘no’ and how you want to say ‘no’ in a strong voice…even if you don’t feel strong inside.“
Bramlette often goes to local schools to teach children in grades K-12 about sexual abuse. The conversations vary depending on age. For example, small children understand three steps to follow if they ever feel threatened:
1. Listen to the ‘Uh-oh’ feeling.
2. Say ‘no.’
3. Go tell.
“Nine out of 10 times a person abusing a child will be a person the child knows and someone the child probably loves and trusts,“ said Bramlette.
Middle and high schoolers receive appropriate training about sexual abuse and how to recognize red flags, say ‘no’ and report based on their age. High schoolers, Bramlette said, also learn about “Shaken Baby Syndrome.“
But the conversation doesn’t only have to happen at home, Bramlette said. Parents can proactively talk to kids about staying safe. Many children already know about child abuse when PCAU visits schools.
But some parents are still opting their children out of these conversations, she told ABC4 News. That’s their right, but she urges all parents to have the conversation at home.
How do you know child sexual abuse is happening? Indicators could include:
- Anxiety over routine events
- Regressive bed-wetting
- Chronic constipation
- Depression or withdrawal
- Knowledge of sexual acts beyond their years
PCAU said if a child indicates he or she is being abused, parents should take it seriously.
“Children rarely ever lie when disclosing abuse,“ said Bramlette. Always, always listen to your child and believe them.“
Prevent Child Abuse Utah estimates 1 in 5 Utah children will be sexually abused before they turn 18.