Tag Archives: Child Sexual Abuse

Penn State Settlements Covered 1971 Sandusky Abuse Claim, via The New York Times:

Penn State’s legal settlements with Jerry Sandusky’s accusers cover alleged abuse dating to 1971, which was 40 years before his arrest, the university said Sunday, providing the first confirmation of the time frame of abuse claims that have led to big payouts.

The disclosure came as Penn State President Eric Barron decried newly revealed allegations that former football coach Joe Paterno was told in 1976 that Sandusky had sexually abused a child and that two assistant coaches witnessed either inappropriate or sexual contact in the late 1980s. Paterno, who died in 2012, had said the first time he had received a complaint against Sandusky was in 2001.

Barron said the accusations were unsubstantiated, and suggested that the university is being subjected unfairly to what he called rumor and innuendo.

Responding to questions about the president’s statement and claims against the school, university spokesman Lawrence Lokman told The Associated Press he could confirm that the earliest year of alleged abuse covered in Penn State’s settlements is 1971.

Sandusky graduated from Penn State in 1965 and returned as a full-time defensive coach in 1969.

The university has paid out more than $90 million to settle more than 30 civil claims involving Sandusky, now 72 and serving a lengthy prison sentence for the sexual abuse of 10 children. The trial involved only allegations dating as far back as the mid-1990s.

The settlements, including the one covering the 1971 allegation, were reached after Sandusky’s 2012 conviction. But few details have been provided on the payouts by either the school or lawyers for those who said Sandusky victimized them.

The allegations about Paterno and the assistant coaches were cited in a ruling last week by Philadelphia Judge Gary Glazer in litigation between an insurance company and Penn State over how much of the settlement costs the school must bear.

The insurers cited an allegation that a boy had told the longtime Penn State football coach in 1976 that he had been molested by Sandusky. The court document also cited statements, from those claiming they had been Sandusky’s victims, that two unidentified assistant coaches had said they witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and children in the late 1980s.

Barron wrote the university community Sunday that he was “appalled by the rumor, innuendo and rush to judgment” following Glazer’s disclosure of some allegations made against Paterno and some of his assistants.

Barron said those allegations, and others raised in some news reports in recent days, are “unsubstantiated and unsupported by any evidence other than a claim by an alleged victim.”

“Coach Paterno is not alive to refute them. His family has denied them,” Barron said.

Some of the press reports, he said, “should be difficult for any reasonable person to believe.”

Barron said few crimes are as heinous as child sex assault, and the university is committed to prevention, treatment and education.

But he said he had “had enough of the continued trial of the institution in various media.”

Sue Paterno, who has defended her husband’s legacy and said the family had no knowledge of new claims, also called for an end to what she called “this endless process of character assassination by accusation.”

Lokman declined to answer questions about what steps the university took to verify abuse claims during the settlement process, or about what it had done to investigate the new allegations that Paterno and members of his coaching staff knew about Sandusky’s abuse decades before his 2011 arrest.

The university hired settlement experts Kenneth Feinberg and Michael Rozen to handle the claims. Feinberg declined comment. Rozen did not respond to an email from the AP.

In 2001, Paterno told high-ranking university officials one of his assistant coaches reported seeing Sandusky acting inappropriately with a child in a team shower. In 2011, Paterno told a grand jury he did not know of any other incidents involving Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in 1999.

Paterno was fired following Sandusky’s November 2011 arrest and died of lung cancer in January 2012. He was not charged with any crime, and his family is pursuing a lawsuit against the NCAA for commercial disparagement.

Three university officials, including former President Graham Spanier, await trial on criminal charges for their handling of the Sandusky scandal.


Associated Press writer Mark Scolforo contributed to this story.

Duggar scandal renews focus on child sexual abuse, via The Kennebec Journal:

The issue of child sexual abuse rose to the surface abruptly last month when “19 Kids and Counting” star Josh Duggar admitted to repeatedly sexually abusing his sisters when he was a teenager. The results have included suspension of the reality TV show from the lineup of the TLC cable network and increased attention to child sexual abuse.

Among the issues that have been raised include sexual behavior problems by young people, and how parents and caregivers can respond appropriately.

Many of the most heart-wrenching cases at the Children’s Advocacy Centers involve families in which sibling abuse has occurred. Parents are distraught about the victimization of one child, while worried about the legal consequences to another child. The parents struggle to provide emotional support and effective intervention to both the child victim and the child who committed the offense.

Staff at Children’s Advocacy Centers and their multidisciplinary teams can help families navigate this difficult time by serving as a gateway to services that can help victims heal.

Young people who have sexual behavior problems are more common than most people realize. In fact, 18 percent of the more than 315,000 sexual abuse cases seen by Children’s Advocacy Centers last year involved an offender younger than 18 — most often a sibling, cousin or friend from the neighborhood or school.

Among the many reasons children and teens may develop a sexual behavior problem are lack of privacy and boundaries, exposure to sexualized materials or environment, curiosity that gets out of hand and a sexual abuse history of their own.

Whatever the reason, however, it is critical to ensure these young people receive evidence-supported treatment to interrupt this cycle of behavior, so that all children in the home can be safe. If we can identify these issues and interrupt this behavior early and treat it appropriately, we as a society ultimately may prevent future child sexual abuse from occurring.

One excellent resource for parents and professionals is the National Center for the Sexual Behavior of Youth, which provides public awareness, training in evidence-based treatments and technical assistance, all tied to managing and responding to youth with problematic sexual behavior. Helpful information for parents and links to treatment providers also can be found through the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a network of mental health experts in child trauma intervention.

Finally, and most importantly, at the heart of every child sexual abuse case is the child victim. We should not minimize the trauma child victims suffer as a result of abuse by other young people. Whether the offender is a sibling, friend or extended family member, the victims suffer a betrayal of trust and a loss of personal safety that is deeply wounding. Similar to other forms of child sexual abuse where the offender is within the family, these child victims struggle with both their fear of continued abuse and their love for the family member who has harmed them.

As a society, we have failed to protect these victims, and we owe them the treatment they need to heal, as well as our support as they go through the challenging healing process. Critical to that healing process is the privacy and space to heal outside of the media glare.

When the abuse is made public, as it was in the case of the Duggar family, the exposure can be as traumatic to the victims as the original abusive incident. Victims routinely report media attention as stressful, and many are ill-prepared for the consequences of such media scrutiny. The loss of privacy and control over this most intimate part of their life can mirror the loss of control felt at the time of the abuse.

Some adult survivors find speaking out about their experiences empowering. The common thread in this experience, however, is one of choice. The victim chooses to tell her or his story, exerted some control over the timing and narrative and is psychologically ready for such a public disclosure.

We all can help victims become survivors by sending a clear message to media that the names of victims should not be used without their permission, nor should they be hounded to tell “their side” of the story.

As executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Center and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Kennebec and Somerset counties, I have witnessed the effects of countless cases of child sexual abuse over the years, I hope this most recent instance will draw additional attention to the issue of child sexual abuse and how we all are responsible for protecting our nation’s children.

I also encourage parents and caregivers to visit the National Center for the Sexual Behavior of Youth, and to learn more about the services offered by local Children’s Advocacy Centers. With more than 800 Children’s Advocacy Centers across the country and now including Maine, intervention and prevention services are readily available so those in similar situations to the Duggar family may seek the help and treatment they need and deserve.

(A 24-hour confidential sexual assault crisis and support line: 800-841-7741.)

Donna Strickler is executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Center in Winthrop.

Addressing child victimization

4 More Things Adults Can Do to Address Child Victimization, via Everyday Feminism:

Would sex crimes be reduced if children obeyed a few don’ts? Don’t play around public toilets. Don’t take candy or rides from strangers. If picked up, mark down the license of the car.” These children’s self-defense suggestions were made by the iconic Lolita of Vladimir Nabokov’s now-classic 1955 novel.Lolita’s suggestions, and the too-real story of the molestation, rape, and abduction of her, shocked Americans of its era. But it posed an important question that is even more relevant today: How do we keep our young people safe from sex criminals and other predators? In part one of this article, we explored the basics of children’s safety from child predators and serious criminals — things for caregivers to study and learn, rules to set, lessons to teach, and considerations to factor in to choosing third-party caregivers. But children’s safety is more complex than “a few don’ts” – because, as we all know, following a simple set of rules doesn’t prevent a person from experiencing violence. Here, in part two, we look those aspects of protecting children that are slightly beyond the basics: the more subtle, on-going interactions that strengthen our children from the inside, influence their decision making, impact their safety, and, hopefully, contribute to a safer and saner society.

1. Modeling

When we are in the presence of a child, like it or not, we’re modeling behavior. Where matters of self-defense and safety are concerned, adults can model helpful behaviors or unhelpful ones. Assertiveness in verbal communication and body language are very important aspects of self-care and self-protection. We teach it (or its two opposites, aggression and passivity) to children, in part, by our own actions. We can model how to carry ourselves in a manner that communicates confidence and strength over vulnerability and weakness. We can practice asking for what we want and need in the presence of children, practice setting and respecting boundaries unapologetically. Assertive boundary setting — like “no,” “stop,” and “don’t touch me” — is key in violence prevention and self-defense. But what about people who find assertiveness challenging?  If you think you may not project confidence, consider this practical advice: “Keep your head up, look ahead, and drop your shoulders…. Walk with a relaxed step,”Defending Ourselves author Rosalind Wiseman suggests. Your confidence may make an impression on the young people in your care. Just like we can model confidence and asking for what we want and need with confidence and clarity, we can also send messages about the rights a child has to her body by the behaviors we require of her. For instance, telling children to “kiss aunty goodbye” is one thing, but making a child kiss aunty, if she or he doesn’t want to, reinforces the notion that kids’ bodies are not theirs. Never force affection on a child or require that a child be affectionate with another adult or child. And listen to how children feel about the touch they encounter from others. If you keep the lines of communication open as children grow, children can report to you — a trusted adult — anything that causes concern in their lives. And being a trusted adult means respecting children’s autonomy with their bodies.

2. Supporting

Supporting children who have been or appear to have been hurt by grown-ups or other children may take many forms, like offering a listening ear or seeking help for them among professionals or other trusted adults in their world. In our everyday encounters with young people whose abuse histories and survivor statuses are unknown to us, we can support them by choosing our own words carefully. Victim-blaming language, like “she shouldn’t have been out that late anyway!” or “Well what was she doing drinking? She’s underage!” communicates to survivors and non-survivors alike that somehow someone other than an assailant is to blame for assault.Assault, abuse, and abduction are never a child’s fault, no matter what he or she may or may not have done. Young people may benefit far more from real-life stories of resilient survivors than criticisms of victims. As they grow old enough to grapple with the problems of a dangerous world, we can expose young people to the recovery and resilience of famous survivors with well-known stories, like Oprah WinfreyMaya Angelou, and Tyler Perry. SurvivorsDylan FarrowMichelle Knight, and Elizabeth Smart tell more contemporary and incredible stories of living through the worst to rise above it in the end. Young people exposed to these stories are likely to come to understand that people can be strengthened by the very same things that are intended to reduce and destroy them.

3. Exposure

Youth is a time for exploring interests and for getting involved in activities. As you offer your input in the choices your young loved ones are making, consider exposing the children you love to the world of self-defense. What’s in your area? Is there a KIDPOWER program or access to Child Lures Prevention? What are children learning in your local martial arts schools, and how are they being respected? If you’re unsure of how to start looking, Irene Van der Zande devotes and entire appendix of The KIDPOWER Book for Caring Adults to helping adults find a good program. If you’re not in the market for classes but would like a young person in your life to learn some self-defense, The Safe Zone by Donna Chaiet, Francine Russell, and Lillian Gee can provide an inexpensive, kid-friendly take-home resource aimed at teaching children basic techniques and strategies. You can also use the Internet to expose kids to real-life success stories of kids fighting back! Do the young people in your life know about seven-year-oldBrittany Baxter and  ten-year-old Jacob Soliz-Amaya? They fought off full-grown, real-life assailants. You can also make the best of teachable moments — those real-life situations that pop up and give us the opportunity to illustrate or further reinforce what we want kids to know and do about their own safety—that arise all the time. If a discussion arises about, for instance, the hundreds of girls recently abducted from the school in Nigeria, you could call a child’s attention to the survival strategies—running, hiding, and telling a trustworthy adult—employed by the girls who escaped.

4. Monitoring

It’s important that we watch children in our care with care…even though we’re busy, even as we’re fostering independence, even as they’re yearning for independence.  Violence prevention expert Gavin DeBecker says it most clearly: “Until a child is old enough to understand what predatory strategies look like, old enough and confident enough to resist them, assertive enough to seek help, powerful enough to enforce the word No—until all that happens, a child is too young to be his [or her] own protector.” Until they can discern between safe practices and risky ones, between empowering images and degrading ones, they may be too young to access Internet and television too. The Internet exposes children to the world and exposes the world to children. Television provides a variety of images, many of which are steeped in the disempowering traditions of patriarchy and misogyny. Television crime shows and Hollywood movies prolifically peddle the rape and abduction of girls and young women, often depicting victims provocatively splayed out in defeat or helplessly bound before the audience. Real-crime TV shows and network news reports cover high-profile rapes and abductions sensationally, offering little by way of empowerment or useful information in prevention and recovery. Whatever they are exposed to, young people will benefit from and grow in their critical assessment of media if we guide them through the images they see and the stories they hear. Be partners with teens and children in media viewing. Even young children’s shows send mixed messages about safety and danger. As you view children’s shows together, keep in mind that real-life predators don’t often resemble the villains on kids’ shows. These predator images may undermine notions of safety and danger, according toChild Lures author Ken Wooden. Child predators frequently function less like cartoon villains and more like Venus fly traps or angler fish — drawing unsuspecting prey close to them with appealing lures. Thus it’s especially important to monitor Internet use as children grow, as many child predators are luring children out of safety via the Internet. In her book Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber Saavy Teens, Nancy Willard asserts that computers should be in central locations in the home and should only be used with close, adult supervision. Eventually, as children demonstrate good decision making in restricted web environments and under supervision, they can earn from you more freedom and independence. But whatever rules you set for your children, don’t just assume that they will follow them in your absence. Kenneth Wooden has demonstrated repeatedly that he can lure children taught “don’t go off with strangers” away from safe spaces with a simple promise of showing them or needing help finding a puppy. Again, watch children in your care with care, choose caregivers who will do the same, andcontinue to monitor the caregivers you choose for the children you love. It’s your prerogative to check in on the children you love (even in unscheduled visits) and report any concerns or potential problems immediately. Hopefully with time and proper care, children will learn to monitor their own environment for safety and danger AND monitor that alarm system inside of themselves known as their own intuition. Intuition is, according to Gavin DeBecker, like getting from A-Z without stopping at all the letters in between. It is how we know something without knowing how we know it, and many self-defense experts believe it to be one of  our most crucial tools in self- and child-protection. Honor your own intuition, and encourage girls and boys to do the same. If it sounds on behalf of a child in your care, heed it. Children will learn from watching you move about the world in tune to your inner voice; they can be similarly encouraged to listen to the funny feeling in their stomach or to a hunch. But just as they learn your virtues, they will also learn your prejudices. Be mindful of your own stereotypes, especially those about race and ethnicity. The vast majority of assailants are the same race as their victim, and children will pick up on our stereotypes to the contrary, whether those stereotypes are uttered or not.

Two things you can do to prevent child abuse, via Bangor Daily News:

Last week, I attended the National Children’s Alliance Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. During several interesting sessions about child sexual abuse and conversations with colleagues from around the country, I again was thinking about how to respond to the inevitable question of, “But what can I do to help prevent and respond to child sexual abuse?”

When people learn that I work for the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, they generally ask two questions: “Does sexual violence really happen in Maine?” and “What can I do to help?” Especially when there are children or older adults involved, people tend to pay a particular amount of attention.

The first question is easy to answer: Yes, sexual violence happens in Maine. About 1 in 5 Mainers will experience rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime. It’s easy to talk about numbers because people are comfortable with numbers.

People, however, are less comfortable with behavior change, which makes the second question more difficult to answer. It involves examining our own behavior, acknowledging our own discomforts, and knowing when to ask for help. A few thoughts I had during the conference and conversations with various colleagues:

Recognizing a child’s body is her/his own. When I say this to people, their immediate reaction is, “Of course my kid’s body is his/her own!” Sometimes, though, in an effort to make auntie so-and-so feel included, we say things like, “Give Aunt Cara a hug and a kiss goodbye!” What if Sally doesn’t want to give Aunt Cara a hug and a kiss goodbye? This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but what this inevitably says to Sally is, “You have to hug or kiss someone even if you don’t want to because a grownup said so.”

Now, if Sally happens to be spunkier than the average kid, she may flat out deny the hug/kiss request and go on playing with her Legos. However, some kids may not feel so spunky. Saying to Sally, “If you don’t want to hug Aunt Cara, that’s OK, but let’s say goodbye,” helps to teach her manners but doesn’t put her in a position of having to hug or kiss someone she doesn’t want to hug or kiss. It helps children like Sally recognize and respect boundaries – their own and others. We don’t make the teens in our lives hug or kiss people they don’t want to. In fact, we actively tell them they don’t have to! Why is a 3-year old any different? This small aspect of our behavior with young children can help address the broader issue of child sexual abuse.

If you see something, say something. A lot of folks get into a “not my business” frame of mind when it comes to sexual abuse. This frame of mind, often called the bystander effect, is why we read stories about people who witness a violent crime and don’t intervene or call the police.

The thing is, any type of violent crime is everyone’s business. And when it relates to those who can’t speak up for themselves, it’s even more important that if we suspect something, we say something.

This is an especially important point for those who work with children on a regular basis. During the week of July 14, St. Joseph’s college is hosting an education symposium about child sexual abuse signs, symptoms and reporting. Speakers include Sen. Bill Diamond, Attorney General Janet Mills, Maine State Police Lt. Glenn Lang, former Assistant District Attorney Alan Kelley, and others.

I’ll be speaking about child sexual abuse response, prevention, and the importance of services such as Children’s Advocacy Centers and sexual assault support advocates. The information presented is intended for teachers and administrators and will include topics such as mandatory reporting and best practices for addressing a student/child who may be a victim. The symposium will be helpful for educators who have a chance to intervene in a potentially abusive situation. Both graduate and continuing education credits are available. For more information, or to register, click here.

The culture of silence around child sexual abuse still exists, though it’s getting better. For more information on how to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse, visit the Maine Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers, a program of MECASA.

Let’s talk about child abuse

Every Sunday throughout April, Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services will have a guest column in the SunJournal. Each column will discuss a different aspect of sexual violence, as well as prevention and education efforts.

The second article is about child abuse, which was written by Jennifer King of the Maine State Police.


A large part of my work as a state police detective has been investigating the sexual abuse of children. For the past 13 years, that has been a topic I think about most days, as do the personnel at sheriffs’ departments and local police departments who investigate those types of cases.

We don’t normally talk about our work with members of the public, but April is Child Abuse Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to talk.

Law enforcement personnel have joined with Department of Health and Human Services caseworkers, child advocacy centers, medical forensic examiners and advocates for survivors of sexual abuse to inform the public of the scope of child abuse as we are aware of it, and how we are approaching the issue in each of our disciplines.

I have to use the qualifier “as we are aware of it” because the abuse of children is the most secretive of crimes, happening in private, with the perpetrators sometimes manipulating their victims into silence. Only some of these children will tell someone that they are being abused.

Then, we put our training and experience to work, and the child’s disclosure sets into motion a multidisciplinary response with the goal of ensuring the long-term well-being of that child.

Many children never tell anyone. Why? Children keep the secret of being sexually abused for many reasons.

They are afraid to tell because the perpetrator threatened them/their family with violence if they told. They are afraid because the perpetrator said they would be taken away from their family and placed in a foster home if they told. They are afraid because the perpetrator made the child feel complicit in the abuse by accepting gifts, and they feel ashamed.

They are afraid because they suspect they will not be believed. They are afraid because, in spite of the abuse, they love the abuser and don’t want him to be arrested and taken away. They are afraid because the abuser is the only source of income for the family and the child doesn’t know what will happen if he/she is arrested.

They are afraid because they don’t think they can tell a stranger, or a courtroom full of strangers, what happened. They are afraid to tell because they already told one person who did not believe them/got upset at them/accused them of lying.

We understand these reasons.

Child sexual abuse is difficult for adults to think and talk about. Imagine how hard it is for children who don’t understand what is happening to them, and don’t know who to trust.

We cannot rely on children to tell us when they are being abused. It is not their responsibility to protect themselves; it is ours — yours and mine. That is not to say we don’t teach them about abuse, and that disclosing is the right thing to do. However, even children who are told these things may not be able to tell.

So how do we identify child victims of sexual abuse when there is no disclosure?

One of the things we know is that many of the users of child pornography are also perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Recent studies demonstrate a link between people who commit child pornography offenses and people who sexually abuse children.

In law enforcement, we are vigorously investigating that link.

Some men have bravely admitted to sexually abusing children when they are confronted regarding their possession of child pornography, and subsequently questioned about hands-on offenses. There may be no harder offense to confess to, and admitting having done this for some men has been the first time they have ever been honest about this part of their life. Up to that point, their desire to view child pornography and their sexual desire for children has been a secret they have guarded with every fiber of their being.

So, one of the ways detectives try to identify child victims who have not disclosed being abused is to question the identified users of child pornography regarding their having committed any hands on offenses, and then trying to identify those victims.

People in law enforcement have taken on the responsibility to investigate crimes including child sexual abuse. We don’t expect members of the public to think about this crime on a daily basis.

What we would like for the public to do, though, is twofold: report suspected abuse without hesitation, and ensure that the agencies in our community that help victims of these crimes are supported.

Jennifer King is a detective with the Maine State Police.


Childhood sexual abuse talking points

10 Ways To Talk To Your Kids About Sexual Abuse, via Everyday Feminism:

Throwback Thursday: This article was originally published on 10/26/12.

(Trigger Warning)

The idea of someone molesting your child is terrifying for any parent (unless theparent is the child molester, which is 37% of the time).

The pain, fear, and trauma they may experience at such a young age are frightening to consider. It’s enough to make any parent freak out and want to never ever think about it again.

And then we hope it will just never happen to our little girl or boy.

Except your daughter has a 1 in 4 chance and your son has a 1 in 6 chance of being molested before the age of 18.

I know you don’t want to hear it or believe it. But it’s true.

And these statistics are too high for any parent to risk staying uninformed about the reality of child sexual abuse and not talking to their child about it.

On top of that, the majority of children never report sexual abuse when it’s happening. They’re often afraid of their parents’ reactions or fear getting into trouble. They don’t know how to explain what happened to them or believe what the abuser told them to keep them quiet.

Now, you can never protect your child fully from ever being molested. But you can do a lot to reduce your child’s vulnerability to sexual abuse and increase the chances they’ll tell you after something happens.

You just need to talk to them directly about it and do it many times.

Why Talking About Sexual Abuse Is Like Talking About Crossing the Street

The idea of talking to your kid about sexual abuse probably seems worse than even talking to them about sex.

You don’t want to scare them (or yourself) in the process. You don’t want to strip away their innocence. You don’t want to introduce them to how much violence and abuse there is in the world.

But given the statistics, your child is much more likely to be molested than to behit by a car when crossing the street.

So try thinking of these conversations as being just as important (and frankly more important given the statistics) than teaching your child how to cross the road safely.

It’s one of the things you teach your child as a sign of love and care and as a way to keep them safe.

Remember that when you take a deep breath and begin talking to your child about their body.

Ways of Approaching the Conversation

1. Frame the conversation for yourself as a way of loving your child: Starting from a loving place and not a scared place will help create the calm environment for your child. This will help them really listen to the words you’re saying. If you’re frightened and stressed, they will react primarily to that fear and not register what you’re saying as much.

It’s also important to not treat the subject like its taboo or dirty (which is how we often treat anything related to sex). Even when parents try to hide their feelings, children are often very perceptive and pick up on small cues telling them that something is wrong. They then may think talking about someone hurting them might be wrong even if you say it’s not. So speak from a calm, casual, and loving frame of mind when having these conversations.

2. Begin talking to them as young as 2 years old: This may seem very early butchildren under 12 are most at risk at 4 years old. Even if they can’t speak well, children at this age are busy figuring out the world. And they certainly understand and remember a lot more than adults usually realize.

For example, when giving a bath, tell them where their private parts are and that the parent is seeing and touching them to clean them but that normally nobody should.

3. Teach them the actual names of their private parts: When you begin teaching them parts of their body like ears, eyes, and toes, also teach them the real names of their private parts like “vagina” and “penis” and not their “cute” names. This gives them the right words to use if someone is hurting them and makes sure the person being told understands what’s happening. It’s also important to teach both female and male anatomy because the abuser can be of either gender and they need to know how to describe what happens to them.

In one case, a child told her parent that her stomach was hurting. When they took her to the doctor, he informed them that her vagina showed signs of rape. Their little daughter had been trying to tell them what was happening but she just didn’t know what to call her vagina so she said stomach instead.

4. Share the only instances when their private parts can be seen and touched:An age appropriate concept for a young child to understand is that nobody – including a parent or caregiver – should see or touch their private parts – what a swimming suit covers up – unless they’re keeping them clean, safe, or healthy. But also make sure they know that even in these situations, if someone is hurting them, they can still say, “stop, it hurts” and tell their parent immediately.

Some examples to help them understand what you’re talking about are when you’re giving them a bath or a doctor is seeing them. Ask them if that’s an example of keeping them clean, safe, or healthy as you’re doing it.

5. Teach them their private parts are special: When talking about this topic, it’s important to not create a taboo or dirty feeling around their private parts. Instead parents can teach their child that their private parts are so special that they’re just for them and no one else.

Only when needing to keep their private parts clean, safe, or healthy are other people allowed to see or touch them. This is also an important step to help children develop a healthy sexuality before discussing sex itself with them.

6. Teach them (and respect) their right to control their bodies: This flies in the face of what we often teach our children – that adults have absolute authority over everything and children have to do what they’re told. The problem is that this only teaches them to not speak up when they’re feeling hurt and scared because of what an adult is telling them to do. Instead, teach your child that their body is theirs and no one has the right to hurt their bodies even when a grown up is doing it. For children, it’s very empowering to have permission to say “no” to an adult if they’re uncomfortable with the request.

For example, when you’re at a social event, don’t make your child kiss or hug anyone. Instead let your child know they can give a kiss, hug, handshake, or nothing to people they see and it’s entirely up to them. And when an adult tries to make them give them a hug and they don’t want to, encourage the child to say “no” and support their decision verbally if needed.

7. Explain that no one should physically hurt them, especially in their private parts. 85% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone they know. It may be a parent, relative, family friend, neighbor, teacher, or religious leader. It may be a man, woman, or another child. It can be anyone. No one unfortunately is on the safe list. In fact, children are most vulnerable with the family members and acquaintances. So make sure your child knows that no one can hurt their bodies no matter who they’re with – even when they’re with their mommy or daddy.

It’s also important that they understand you’re talking to them about this because you love them and want them to be safe. Just like you teach them about crossing the road because they might get hit by a car, you’re also teaching them that someone might sexually hurt them. It doesn’t mean it will happen. But in case someone tries to, your child will know they can say “no, stop that” and tell you what happened without you being upset with them.

8. Encourage them to trust their gut around their safety: While parents shouldn’t instill a fear of people in their child, they should support their child in trusting their gut instinct. By trusting their intuition, children will both be more empowered around making their own choices about who’s safe instead of relying on a parent telling them. This is important because a parent won’t always be there with them.

One way is to tell the child before social events that if they ever feel uncomfortable with someone – even if nothing has happened, they should leave the room and tell their parent. Even if it looks “rude,” they should know that they will not be punished for simply leaving the room. Their sense of safety comes before the need to be “polite.”

9. Explain that a secret is still a secret when shared with the parents: Many abusers tell their child victims that what happened was a secret and to not tell anyone, especially their parents. So it’s important to teach them early on that secrets are still kept secret if they tell their mom or dad. Additionally, they should understand anyone who wants them to keep secrets from their parents shouldn’t be trusted and they should definitely tell their parents about it.

10. Tell them that you will believe them if someone is hurting them and they won’t be in trouble: Many abusers tell their victims that no one will believe them and create a sense of shame around what happened. Children in general, usually blame themselves and take responsibility for things that happen in their lives, regardless of who’s actually responsible for it. Given this, children often fear what their parent will do if they tell them, including being punished. Make sure they know without a doubt that you won’t be upset, that they’ve done the right thing, and that you’re proud of them for telling them the truth.

But Here’s the Most Important Thing To Do

If you remember nothing else, remember this – these conversations should be ongoing, open, and casual.

You wouldn’t tell your child just once to not cross the street without looking both ways. You’d tell them several times and probably even quiz them about what they need to do when they want to cross the road.

It’s the same deal for sexual abuse – except you have this conversation from a much earlier age and it changes as your child grows up and becomes a teenager.

While nothing can keep your child 100% safe, if you keep an open, casual dialogue with your child, keep an eye out for signs, and pay attention to how your child responds to people, you’ve significantly reduced the risk of someone sexually abusing your child.

For more resources, please visit:

Parents Magazine discusses child sexual abuse

4 Things People Don’t Understand About Sexual Abuse, via Parents Magazine:

In October, I received a random Facebook request from Jonathan, an old high school friend I’d lost touch with. It was an invitation to Like a page for something called The Julie Valentine Center. Googling it, I saw that it’s a sexual assault and child abuse recovery center in South Carolina. My first thought was that Jonathan knew I work atParents and wanted me to be aware of the center. (He didn’t know where I work.) When I went on their home page, I saw they were promoting a blog series about life after sexual abuse written by Jonathan. I winced, understanding that he must have been sexually abused as a child. My mind flashed back to Jonathan in school, one of the smartest kids in our class, who went on to Pepperdine. You just never know what people are going through, I thought. Then I looked more closely at the blog post and my stomach dropped. Jonathan hadn’t been sexually abused. His 3-year-old son had.

As Jonathan now very openly explains–in an effort to make some kind of sense out of the horror he, his wife Michelle, and three older sons are still enduring–his youngest son, now 4, was sexually abused more than 20 times by Jonathan’s then-15-year-old nephew.

Jonathan has told me that they are all suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and feeling the effects of not only the abuse, but the way it has fractured their extended family. He is determined to speak out, though, if it means it will positively affect anyone else living through the aftermath of abuse.

He’s about halfway through a 12-week blog series and I hope all of you read what he’s written so far. His words are poignant and full of every emotion imaginable, including sadness, rage, empathy, guilt, hope, and most of all love. I showed them to Linda E. Johnson, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, who was instrumental last year when we ran this story in Parents about protecting your child from a sexual predator. She said of Jonathan’s writing: “I was very, very moved and very impressed… and very saddened by what happened to his little boy. But what was so important to me is that they just did everything right.” She praised their son, too. “Only one or two in every 10 victims tell while they’re children. The fact that he could is a testament to the healthy and loving relationship his parents have built with him. And he was right! He was right to tell, because they immediately believed him and acted upon what they learned.”

I asked Linda whether it’s common for parents to respond as thoroughly and publicly as Jonathan and Michelle have, especially considering they’re still feeling the immediate impact of the abuse. She said, “I want to believe what they’re doing is part of a movement toward the positive. But many parents succumb to the guilt trips put upon by other family members, or fear, or shame,” and don’t speak up.

She had kind words for The Julie Valentine Center as well. “The advocacy center deserves to be in the spotlight, too. They do yeoman’s work in supporting and guiding families and helping them with expectations during the legal process–expectations that may not be met.”

Of all of Jonathan’s posts so far, the one that feels most illuminating follows. Knowing that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the time they’re 18, and how likely it is that someone you know–child or parent, friend or family member–has been affected by sexual abuse, I urge you to read the rest.

Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle: Myths and Misconceptions
By Jonathan Mitten
I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support in response to my first post. Many friends have come forward to share their stories of being molested as children and wish their parents had stood up for them. I write in an effort to find some greater meaning in my family’s pain that they and those who have suffered the same, might find some sense of comfort or belonging. In both my and my wife’s eyes there lies sorrow reaching deep into our souls. It is a look I now recognize in the eyes of others who have been through the same. It is not a look of resignation, for underneath burns a fire that ignites whenever we encounter one of these myths, or as I now call them “lies.”

These excuses to which I refer are born of a deep denial, a desire to “put the genie back in the bottle” so that life can return to the way it was without acknowledging the horror of what has been done. It is a desire to minimize the pain inflicted so the charade of a happy family can continue unabated. The following myths and misconceptions were ones that we encountered over the last seven months. —Jonathan Mitten 

Myth #1 
It’s a family matter that doesn’t need to be reported

Unfortunately most child sex abuse is committed by family members, family friends, or others in a trusted position, not by strangers. When our 3-year-old first spilled the beans to my wife, she immediately confronted the offender who admitted his crime. My wife’s family expected that we would treat this as a family matter and not report the incident to the police. The reality is that all sex abuse must be reported. We cried for a day and I made calls trying to find some other way to minimize the impact to this young man’s life. It took two calls to the police and two visits before we finally filed a report. I had to have an EKG in the middle of this because my doctor feared I was having a heart attack. Ultimately, we immediately sought treatment for my son and were told that we had to file a police report and see a forensic counselor before he could be treated.  A parent that fails to notify the police may be classified as a non-protecting parent.

Myth #2 
A 3-year-old won’t remember

Unfortunately this is false and I truly wish it was true. We have not brought the topic up with our three year old. He on the other hand, now that the secret is out, has shared with us, with neighborhood children, and random folks at our house. He has shared everything in much greater detail than we necessarily want to know. It is a good sign that he doesn’t feel shame but he breaks our heart each time he brings it up. We have had several adults speak to us privately about their own experiences and unfortunately those who were his age when it happened still remember vividly what was done to them. It was stated at the sentencing hearing that the offender believes that our child wasn’t hurt and that he would “forget about it if people would quit bringing it up.” How I wish that were true….

Myth # 3 
It didn’t hurt (he didn’t say no/he enjoyed it)

My stomach turns every time this lie is repeated, and I seethe with a thinly veiled rage. Forced sexual acts are humiliating, hurt physically and leave deep psychological scars. Anyone who says otherwise is in in deep denial eschewing all common sense and reasoning, not to mention volumes of documentation. Both the offender and his family have used this as a way of implying that there was no crime and that what happened is no big deal.

Myth #4 
It’s just a teenage boy thing (hormones or just a phase he’s going through)

We all know that teenage boys are full of raging hormones that get the best of them and that they fantasize about a lot. I remember talking to the police officer by his cruiser as he was getting ready to leave and he made this point: It has not and has never been normal to fantasize about prepubescent boys and girls. He is correct. Those who fantasize about little kids are pedophiles and those that act on their fantasies are molesters.

It was suggested that Thanksgiving and Christmas could still be the same, as long as the molester had adult supervision at all times and was not left alone with the other kids. The biggest myth of all? That we can put the genie back in the bottle… really, we can.

Penn State to compensate Sandusky victims

Penn State Will Pay Nearly $60 million to 26 Sandusky Victims, via Huffington Post:

HARRISBURG, Pa. — HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Penn State said Monday it is paying $59.7 million to 26 young men over claims of child sexual abuse at the hands of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

The university said it had concluded negotiations that have lasted about a year.

The school said 23 deals are fully signed and three are agreements in principle. The school faces six other claims, and the university says it believes some do not have merit while others may produce settlements.

Penn State said the day Sandusky was convicted in June 2012 of 45 criminal counts that it was determined to compensate his victims.

The settlements have been unfolding since mid-August, when attorneys for the accusers began to disclose them. Penn State followed a policy in which it has not been confirming them, waiting instead to announce deals at once.

Penn State has spent more than $50 million on other costs related to the Sandusky scandal, including lawyers’ fees, public relations expenses, and adoption of new policies and procedures related to children and sexual abuse complaints.

Sandusky, 69, has been pursuing appeals while he serves a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence.

Three former Penn State administrators await trial in Harrisburg on charges they engaged in a criminal cover-up of the Sandusky scandal. Former president Graham Spanier, retired vice president Gary Schultz and retired athletic director Tim Curley deny the allegations, and a trial date has not been scheduled.

Eight young men testified against Sandusky, describing a range of abuse they said went from grooming and manipulation to fondling, oral sex and anal rape when they were boys.

Sandusky did not testify at his trial but has long asserted his innocence. He has acknowledged he showered with boys but insisted he never molested them.

The abuse scandal rocked Penn State, bringing down football coach Joe Paterno and leading college sports’ governing body, the NCAA, to levy unprecedented sanctions against the university’s football program.

Celebrity memoirs of childhood sexual abuse

80’s child star, Corey Feldman is set to release his new memoir, Coreyography, on October 28th. This book will discuss the child sexual abuse that he, and fellow actor/friend, Corey Haim (who passed away in 2010) experienced in Hollywood. “Pedophilia was and still is Hollywood’s biggest problem and darkest secret.”

Unfortunately, the stigma that sexual assault only happens to females still exists. If you are a male survivor, please know that you are not alone: “Researchers estimate that 1 in 6 men have experienced unwanted or abusive sexual experiences before age 18.” –1in6.org

If you need help, or someone to talk to, we offer a men’s support group every Monday at 6:30 PM in Farmington, and you can always call our 24-hour helpline number at 1-800-871-7741. When you’re ready, we’ll be here.


Corey Feldman’s ‘Coreyography’ details sexual abuse he, Corey Haim Faced, via The Huffington Post

In his new memoir, Coreyography, Corey Feldman details the sexual abuse he and fellow child star Corey Haim endured in Hollywood at the hands of men they worked with and considered friends. Due out Oct. 28, the book also describes years of drug abuse both he and Haim faced.

On the 1986 set of “Lucas,” Haim told Feldman that “an adult male convinced him that it was perfectly normal for older men and younger boys in the business to have sexual relations, that it was what all the guys do. So they walked off to a secluded area between two trailers … and Haim allowed himself to be sodomized,” Feldman wrote, per an excerpt obtained by Page Six.

After relaying the incident to Feldman, Haim asked, “So, I guess we should play around like that, too?” Feldman dismissed him, saying, that’s “not what kids do, man.” But Feldman went on to suffer abuse himself, specifically by a man named “Ron,” whom his father hired as his assistant. Ron allegedly took advantage of him after turning him onto drugs.

Both Haim and Feldman battled substance abuse issues for years. Feldman, now 42, reached a breaking point when he was arrested for heroin in 1990 at 19 years old. After two more drug arrests, he got sober. Haim was in and out of rehab for addiction 15 times before his death in 2010.

Corey was raped at the age of 11,” Feldman writes, via the New York Daily News, “and like many, many victims, drug use became an easy, if also tragic, way for him to escape the weight of that shame.”

Two years before he died, Haim opened up to People magazine about his demons.

“I was very, very awake and very ashamed of what was going on, how I put it, I was just … coming into Hollywood, man, [I was] just a horny little kid, like on drugs, getting fed drugs, man, by vampires,” he said of being abused at 14. “I still blame myself to an extent, but my conscience is much, much more clear. I have come to terms with this a long time ago but obviously not [totally]. Stuff happens when you are a kid, it scars you inside for life.”

In 2011, Feldman told “Nightline” that a “Hollywood mogul” who abused Haim is to blame for the late actor’s death. He said pedophilia was and still is Hollywood’s biggest problem and darkest secret.

The impact of child abuse and neglect

Every Sunday throughout April, Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Services will have a guest column in the SunJournal. Each column will discuss a different aspect of sexual violence, as well as prevention & education efforts.

Here is the 3rd article from the Coordinator & Forensic Interviewer of our Children’s Advocacy Center!


While physical injuries may or may not be immediately visible, abuse and neglect can have consequences for children, families and society that last lifetimes, if not generations. The impact of child abuse and neglect is often discussed in terms of physical, psychological, behavioral and so…

While physical injuries may or may not be immediately visible, abuse and neglect can have consequences for children, families and society that last lifetimes, if not

The impact of child abuse and neglect is often discussed in terms of physical, psychological, behavioral and societal consequences. In reality, however, it is impossible to separate them completely.

Physical consequences, such as damage to a child’s growing brain, can have psychological implications, such as cognitive delays or emotional difficulties. Psychological problems often manifest as high-risk behaviors. Depression and anxiety, for example, may make a person more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol or illicit drugs, or overeat. High-risk behaviors, in turn, can lead to long-term physical health problems such as sexually transmitted diseases, cancer and obesity.

Not all children who are abused or neglected will experience long term consequences. Outcomes of individual cases vary widely and are affected by a combination of factors, including:

—  The child’s age and developmental status when the abuse or neglect occurred;

—  The type of abuse (physical, neglect, sexual abuse, etc.);

—  The frequency, duration and severity of abuse; and

—  The relationship between the victim and his or her abuser.

Some children experience long-term consequences of abuse and neglect while others emerge relatively unscathed. The ability to cope, and even thrive, following a negative experience, is sometimes referred to as “resilience.”

There are a number of factors that can contribute to a child’s resilience. These factors can include a child’s individual characteristics, such as optimism, self-esteem, intelligence, creativity, humor and independence.

The acceptance of peers and positive individual influences, such as non-offending parents or caregivers, teachers, mentors and role models also contribute to resilience.

Other factors may include the child’s social environment and the family’s ability to nurture and provide a stable family relationship. Access to health care and social services significantly impacts a child’s resilience.

The immediate physical effects of abuse or neglect can be relatively minor (bruises or cuts) or severe (broken bones, hemorrhage, burns or even death). In some cases the physical effects are temporary; however, the pain and suffering they cause a child may live on far after the abuse is over.

The relationship between childhood trauma and later health concerns has been the subject of many studies. Research has found that childhood experiences of abuse contribute to the likelihood of depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviors, personality disorders, eating disorders and sexual disorders (Draper et al., 2007).

When thinking about the long-term effects of child abuse, here are a few statistics to keep in mind:

—  22 percent of maltreated children have learning disorders requiring special education.

—  27 percent of children who are abused or neglected become delinquents, compared to 17 percent of children in the general population.

In a study of 17,000 adults, those who were abused as children were more likely to become suicidal; more likely to have heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease; twice as likely to be smokers; twice as likely to be severely obese; twice as likely to become alcoholics; and three times as likely to develop a drug addiction.

Studies conducted have shown an increase of sexually transmitted diseases in childhood abuse or neglect survivors tracked over time.

Although this article has focused on the effects of child abuse, it ends with the question: How do we ameliorate those long-term impact of child abuse?

The answer is simple — stop child abuse and neglect. There must be a resurgence of community education and intervention, and a commitment to help end this horrific childhood experience.

Child abuse continues to be an epidemic — for which there is a cure. Every person, whether they are a parent, educator, professional or a customer shopping at Walmart must advocate and protect the most vulnerable members of our community.

If a child discloses abuse to you, believe them, then take the appropriate steps to report the disclosure — The Department of Health and Human Services will take a report 24 hours a day, as will all law enforcement entities.

The impact of child abuse does not end when the abuse stops. A person abused as a child may experience long-term effects that can interfere with their day-to-day functioning. With help and support, however, it is possible for that person to live a full and constructive life, and even thrive — to enjoy a feeling of wholeness, satisfaction in life and work, as well as genuine love and trust in their relationships.

Keri Myrick is the coordinator and forensic interviewer for the Androscoggin Children’s Advocacy Center.