Protecting the Children: Part 3

By: Tamara Evans
By: Tamara Evans

It is estimated that one in four girls and one in seven boys in this country will be sexually abused.

The scariest thing about this problem is who the abusers actually are.

Dawn Long is the Executive Director of the Barren River Area Child Advocacy Center.

The Child Advocacy Center is a safe place where children of sexual assault are able to go to talk about what has happened to them.

Investigators, psychologists, doctors, and social workers all work together to make the experience as comfortable for the children as possible.

"The entire team works really hard to bring that process as child-friendly as possible and I think we do remarkably well,” says Long.

Barry Raley is one of the officers that sexually abused children speak to at the center.

These are the type of questions he has to ask.

"Tell me something good about them that you like. Well, then tell me something that you don't like. A lot of times they'll say, well, he touches me or he does nasty things, so then that can lead into more specific kinds of questions,” says Raley.

Specific questions such as where they were touched and with what they were touched with.

"I know it's very difficult for the kids I talk to say those things, but I have to ask,” says Raley.

The common misconception out there is that children are sexually assaulted by strangers, when in reality statistics show six out of seven children are assaulted by someone they know.

"It's almost always, if not always, been someone that the child is familiar with, either a relative, someone that lives in the home, even a sibling,” says Raley.

"That’s the part that people get uncomfortable with. It's one thing to say someone else that you don't know is going to hurt your kid, but the reality is their home, their location or place that's special to them, or the person you would expect to trust is unfortunately the person hurting them many times,” says Long.

"We're teaching these kids "Stranger Danger, Stranger Danger,” but as we were saying all along it may not be a stranger,” says Kentucky State Police Detective Brad Bowles.

Brad Bowles is a sexual abuse detective for the Kentucky State Police.

He also helps interview sexually assaulted children at the Child Advocacy Center.

He says most of the time the offender is very precise in how they choose their victim.

"They'll observe a child and be able to tell if this child is kind of withdrawn, maybe perhaps has low self-esteem or something, and this child will really attach and relate to this person quickly,” says Bowles.

Bowles says during this time the offender can groom the child through gifts or by spending time with them to get close.

"They kinda just test them with each step in this grooming process before they start actually making them the victim of abuse,” says Bowles.

Bowles says since the child has built up a trust in this person many times they're more reluctant to speak out or talk about it.

"They don't want to get this person in trouble. They may actually think alot of this person, but they're confused and not sure why this person is doing this to them,” says Bowles.

Children can also be told not to speak out by the offender or that if they do speak out that the child will be the one who is punished.

These children are sometimes made to feel guilty for this sexual act.

Those that work with children who have been sexually assaulted, say the most important thing is to believe the child when they do speak out.

That's because only one to five percent of these children falsely report.

That means 95 to 99 percent of the time these children are telling the truth.

The only way people can stop this sexual assault is to let someone know it's going on.

"If it doesn't get reported, it doesn't get investigated. If it doesn't get investigated, it won't be prosecuted, which means we have people hurting kids that continue to do that and the cycle will continue,” says Dawn Long.

The number of sexually abused children in this area is alarming.

The Child Advocacy Center reported 526 sexually assaulted kids in the last fiscal year.

They had 80 new cases during the months of April, May and June.

Those are just the cases that were reported and investigated.

There's no way of knowing how many cases went unreported.

Those with the center encourage you to let them know if you think there's even a possibility that a child is being abused.

"Whether you believe the abuse took place or just have reason to believe, the law doesn't say you have to have proof. The law says if you have concerns you should report it,” says Dawn Long.

To report acts of sexual abuse you can call your local police department or social services, or the Barren River Area Child Advocacy Center at 270-783-4357.

WBKO 2727 Russellville Road Bowling Green, KY 42101-3976 Phone: 270-781-1313 After Hours Hotline: 270-781-6397 Fax: 270-781-1814
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