Keeping children safe and healthy is a parent's primary goal. Child sexual abuse often goes unnoticed or unreported because 95 percent of cases involve people who children know and trust. One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before age 18, according to the American Psychological Association. Child sexual abuse involves verbal or contact behaviors for sexual purposes.
All children are at some risk, obviously. But there are groups that are more at risk that are vulnerable. "Children in poverty. Children who don't have parents who are there and available. And very lonely kids who are isolated can cave to that easily, and there are kids the same age who will take advantage of that and can manipulate that information and use it," said Christi L. Cooper-Lehki, D.O., Chair of WVU Family Medicine.
According to the most recent reports, 95 percent of victims are abused by people they know. "It's not usually so called stranger danger. That's the least common type of sexual abuse. So being very, very aware of the people who are with your children ,who your children trust because when they are sexually abused it's mostly by people that they know and trust and by people that you as the parents know and trust," said Cooper-Lehki.
Early and frequent discussions about what it is and what is not appropriate behavior is critical according to Cooper-Lehki. "It is necessary. It's easier to avoid it because it's so confusing and you don't want to mess it up and you don't want to make your kids hyper vigilant afraid of everything. So try to do it ahead of time in as a kind of neutral, fact based way because you don't want to alarm them but you also want them to know how serious it is."
Experts believe empowering your children to take a stand against sexual predators is essential. "Teach them how to say 'no', and reinforce the need to tell an adult if they think they might be in danger," said Dr. Rolly Sullivan, WVU School of Medicine.