WASHINGTON COUNTY (ABC4 News) – One in five children in Utah will be sexually abused before turning 18, according to data from Prevent Child Abuse Utah. For many parents, sitting down with their kids at a young age to talk about sexual abuse can be difficult.
Staff at the Washington County Children’s Justice Center (WCCJC) told ABC4 News it’s crucial for parents to learn how to approach topics like consent. Director Kristy Pike said child sex abuse is pervasive, affecting those across all socioeconomic and racial lines. In Washington County, child sex abuse rates mirror the state and national average.
“We like to think we don’t belong in that 1 in 5 category, but we do,” said Pike.
In 2018, WCCJC served 364 child survivors, and eighty-four percent of them knew their alleged perpetrator.
Pike added that parents can intervene at a very early age by speaking with kids about consent, which means taking ownership and responsibility for your body. Parents can teach their children to say “My body is mine,” creating boundaries with not only strangers but also family and friends.
“With a 2-year-old, that might look like Grandma giving the child the option of ‘Can I have a hug, or would you rather give me a high-five?'” Pike said. “Giving a child choices at a very young age and allowing them to take responsibility for their own body.”
The best advice for parents is to be actively involved in their kids’ lives, including online where perpetrators often groom them, according to the director.
Child pornography arrests are on the rise in Washington County, which Pike said may be linked to increased training among law enforcement to investigate and prosecute these cases.
While victims of sexual abuse learn to regain a sense of control over their lives, experts say it’s important that family and friends emphasize their resilience.
“There is a way of coming out and being hopeful, finding joy and fulfillment in your life and in your relationships,” added Pike.
As an adult in Utah, if you have reason to believe a child has been abused, you are mandated to report it.
Internet Crimes Against Children:
Report child pornography to law enforcement by contacting the ICAC Tip Line at 801.281.1211 or your local law enforcement agency.
Child Abuse: If you suspect child abuse or neglect contact the DCFS 24/7 hotline: 855-323-3237. For more information, visit dcfs.utah.gov.