FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — It’s something that’s often kept silent, but experts say it needs to be talked about more. Child sexual abuse affects more children and adults than you may think.
Experts say one in 10 children are sexually abused by the time they turn 18. More than half of them will never tell a soul.
Wednesday night, local experts on the topic of child sexual abuse gave advice to parents and community members on how to put a stop to the silence.
“When a child discloses, believe them. The most damaging thing a parent can do in a situation where a child discloses, is to dismiss, disregard or outright negate the child’s attempt to reveal abuse,” said Dr. Heather Pfiefer of the Roper Victim Assistance Academy.
Those who study these cases say it’s important to stay calm and lend a listening ear when a child speaks out about the abuse they’ve endured.
“Trauma doesn’t just affect the child, it affects the family and everyone around that child,” Pfiefer said.
Experts say children often come forward and won’t remember every detail, that’s because the brain processes trauma in a different way.
“Some events may be blocked temporarily and others may never be able to be retrieved,” she added.
It’s an uncomfortable subject for a parent and a young child, but it’s important to have conversations about boundaries and bodies early on.
Robin Grove, director of the Child Advocacy Center of Frederick, said “using the anatomical names for private parts for genitalia helps to remove the ‘uncomfortableness’ of it.”
When it comes to boundaries, visuals are effective when explaining personal space to kids.
“Give them a hula hoop, put it around their body. Say ‘this is your personal space.’ If anybody gets too close, they start coming towards then you have my permission to say, ‘stop, you’re making me uncomfortable,” said Grove.
There are local resources for victims of abuse and their loved ones across the Four-State area and advocates encourage you to reach out if you or a loved one needs help.
Experts say alerting law enforcement is encouraged in these kinds of cases.
In case of an emergency, call 911.