Three recent, horrific cases of child sexual abuse, on the national and local levels, have shed light on a topic that seemingly no one wants to talk about. Therapists say one of the reasons these cases keep appearing in our headlines is because no one wants to talk about it... And that may be one thing that allows the abuse to continue. But prevention advocates say the cure for it is out there, and it's this: talk.
These are the faces of child sexual abuse... What you see is equivalent to what you would normally hear about it, which is nothing... That is, until cases the magnitude of the Penn State scandal make headlines.
Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of repeated incidents of child molestation.
Longtime Los Angeles elementary school teacher Mark Berndt allegedly fondled multiple victims in his classroom.
As news of those incidents was breaking, Neng Yang, who taught second grade at Freedom Elementary school in Clovis, was arrested and charged with molesting a student in his classroom.
Dr. Susan Napolitano, The Sullivan Center for Children: "These kinds of cases come from within your household, within your school district or within your church. They don't come from strangers, they don't come from scary people. They come from people you look up to."
Incidents like these are likely to make headlines again in the future. But child sexual abuse prevention advocates say if we don't start talking to our kids now, these incidents may hit even closer to home.
Dr. Bernadette Muscat, Fresno St. Associate Prof. of Criminology: "I think what's most important for victims is that they have the courage to speak up, that they realize it's not their fault. They didn't do anything wrong."
No, it's not something that's easy to talk about... It's abuse.
It's easy to talk about sex... Its easy to talk about our kids... But not when you put the three together.
Lisa DeBenedetto is on the board of directors at the new Family Healing Center" in Fresno, which helps abuse victims through their ordeals.
Lisa DeBenedetto, Family Therapist: "Giving them the information the need. You don't have to give them more than they need, but you need to give them enough to empower them and keep them safe and give them options if something happens that is uncomfortable."
US attorneys have prosecuted enough child sexual exploitation cases to put our San Joaquin Valley at 5th out of 97 federal districts in the country. Agent Mike Prado is with the Department of Homeland Security.
Mike Prado, Supervisory Special Agent: "I think now with the tools that we in law enforcement are able to deploy to find these people, we're a lot more successful in uncovering things that otherwise many have gone unreported."
Statistics show 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18.
For boys, it's 1 in 6.
35% of those victims were abused by a family member, and over 50% were abused by someone the family trusted.
The Fresno Council on Child Abuse Prevention says some children may take months, even years, to fully reveal what was done to them, and sometimes, not at all.
Esther Franco, FCCAP Executive Director: "I know it's very horrific to talk about child sexual abuse and it's horrific for people who are in the field. The good news is child abuse is 100% preventable."
If your child does say something, psychologists say you should talk with him or her in an age appropriate way.
Books like this one, 'Don't Be Scared To Tell,' by Kathy Chatterton, are one way parents can talk to their kids about child sexual abuse.
Kathy Chatterton, Author: "They deserve a fighting shot, a fighting chance to speak up for themselves and get help when someone who's supposed to take care of them isn't."
Here are some other things to remember if sexual abuse is a conversation you need to have with your child.
Stay calm... Your own emotions can make it even harder on the child.
Believe your child... and praise him or her for being brave enough to talk about the abuse.
Protect your child... by getting away from the abuser and immediately reporting the incident to law enforcement.
Get help... Have your child see a doctor, as well as a mental health professional, who specializes in child sexual abuse.
Lastly, reassure your sons and daughters.
Let them know they are loved, accepted, and protected.
Dr. Muscat: "The very best thing they can do to help themselves at this point is to speak up. And if you're not heard the first time, speak up again."
If there's one thing that psychologists want to emphasize to parents with regard to child sexual abuse prevention, it's this: Have a good, solid relationship with your kids, and that can make it easier to talk.
These horrific incidents on the national, state, and local levels, have raised many questions about how to deal with child sexual abuse. Psychologists say it needs to be reported right away.
The National Child Abuse Hotline number is 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453).
And at our website, you can find information on books, websites, and local prevention agencies that can answer any questions you might have.
Just go to KSEE24.com, and click on newslinks.