Protecting your child from sexual abuse - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Protecting your child from sexual abuse

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH(FOX19)  - It's an unthinkable book. A so called "how to manual" that teaches pedophiles how to sexually abuse children. The worst part? It's legal.

Last fall, a "how to" guide surfaced on Amazon.com. It taught abusers how to do a better job of attracting and then molesting children, but what's most troubling is the fact this isn't the only one out there and there's not a whole lot investigators can do about it.

There is hope, though.

Some victims tells us that parents can take back the power from those pages.

Holly Sowels-Jenkins said her father sexually abused her. It first happened when she was five years old. Sowels-Jenkins said her father molested and raped her for seven years; that's when he brought in another abuser.

"One of my brothers, who was only a year and a half older than me, walked in and caught my father molesting me one day," said Sowels-Jenkins. "So to keep him from telling, my father forced him to have sex with me, as well."

She said her mother knew all along, and physically abused her, as well.

"What I figured out was I was the other woman in my mother's life," said Sowels-Jenkins. "And if you find your husband is cheating or messing around, whose eyes do you want to claw out?"

Both of her parents died years ago. Now, Sowels-Jenkins says that pain has become her purpose. She's written her own book "Daddy Don't" and several plays, pledging to help heal other victims of child sexual abuse.

Advocacy organization Darkness to Light estimates one in four girls and one in six boys is sexually abused by his or her 18th birthday. In 90-percent of the cases, the abuser is someone the child knows.

Just ask Hyde Park resident "Mary." She asked us to conceal her identity.

"When I was 10, I was sexually abused by my neighbor," Mary said.

Mary was molested by a neighbor who also sexually abused his own daughters -- her friends.

"It started happening slowly," Mary said. "At first, it might have been just exposure. Then it might have led to touching and things of that nature. When you're a child, there may be other issues going on. You're looking for love."

Detectives say predators depend on that.

In today's world, where parents are busier than ever and often working long hours and leaving children home alone, experts say many young people are easy victims.

Tracy Watson is a personal crimes detective for the Boone County Sheriff's Department. She has investigated more than 700 cases involving child sexual abuse. She said the problem has grown exponentially over the last decade.

"It got big enough that myself, another detective, and our two computer forensic guys are Deputy U.S. Marshals to investigate child porn," said Watson. "It's gotten pretty bad so we take it through the federal system."

Detective Watson says the Internet is the reason behind the increase, and now that same tool is being used to teach predators how to find their prey.

Watson tracked down the latest manual that child predators are using, but could barely stomach reading it.

"It was not easy," said Detective Watson. "I couldn't stomach reading the whole thing."

Both survivors we spoke with agreed the manual is disgusting, but they say it can actually help stop the issue.

"Pedophiles don't need a manual," said Sowels-Jenkins. "They already know what they're doing. The manual lets us know what they're up to and how they groom their children."

Part of that "grooming" includes making victims believe the abuse is their fault, and no one will believe them.

Gary Hudson runs the Cincinnati chapter of Darkness to Light. He said that far too often no one does believe victims.

"If someone reports a crime to you, it probably happened so the comparison I would offer is if someone comes running down the street to you saying my car was stolen," Hudson said. "Yelling my car was stolen. Our first instinct would not be to say well, you probably wanted them to steal it, didn't you? What? Did you leave the keys in it?Did you polish it up? I bet you just had it detailed.You made it look real nice for them, didn't you?"

Hudson said education is the only way to stop the problem.

"If all of us abide by certain simple practices," said Hudson. "We don't let our kids go behind closed doors. We don't let them go where it's not interruptible, it's not observable. Then, it makes it an environment where it's not safe for a perpetrator."

"The adults know this child will tell on you or tell on them," Sowels-Jenkins said. "That child is less likely to be the one that is approached."

"Talk about if it feels weird, tell mom, tell dad," said Detective Watson. "If something doesn't seem right, tell a trusted adult."

"Parents are just afraid to bring up the subject," said Sowels-Jenkins. "Why would I want to put that in their heads? Because you want to keep them safe."

There's a childhood sexual trauma class going on right now at Crossroads Community Church in Oakley. The church meets every Thursday thru March 24th from 6:30pm until 8:30pm. The church is located at 3500 Madison Road.

It's an eight week class that has already begun, but you can still sign up. Organizers say your privacy will be protected. Call this number for more information: 513-731-7400.

For many, it may be that first step you need to begin the healing process.

As for the manual, it was sold on Amazon.com last fall. Customers threatened to boycott the website. While obscene, Watson said the book is legal. There aren't any pornographic pictures in it. Amazon initially refused to pull the book, under the guise of protecting free speech, but Amazon eventually gave in and removed the book.

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Helpful Tips for the Boone Co. Sheriff's Department:

What are the most important things parents should tell children about safety?

· Always check first with a parent, guardian, or trusted adult before going anywhere, accepting anything, or getting into a car with anyone.

· Do not go out alone. Always take a friend with when going places or playing outside.

· Say no if someone tries to touch you, or treats you in a way that makes you feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused. Get out of the situation as quickly as possible.

· Tell a parent, guardian, or trusted adult if you feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused.

 

What should a parent know when talking to a child about safety?

· Don't forget your older children. Children aged 11 to17 are equally at risk to victimization. At the same time you are giving your older children more freedom, make sure they understand important safety rules as well.

· Speak to your children in manner that is calm and non-threatening. Children do not need to be frightened to get the point across. In fact, fear can thwart the safety message, because fear can be paralyzing to a child.

· Speak openly. Children will be less likely to come to you about issues enshrouded in secrecy. If they feel that you are comfortable discussing the subject at hand, they may be more forthcoming.

· Do not teach "stranger danger." Children do not have the same understanding of "strangers" as adults; the concept is difficult for them to grasp. And, based on what we know about those who harm children, people known to children and/or their families actually present greater danger to children than do "strangers."

· Practice what you preach. You may think your children understand your message, but until they can incorporate it into their daily lives, it may not be clearly understood. Find opportunities to practice "what if" scenarios.

· Teach your children that safety is more important than manners. In other words, it is more important for children to get themselves out of a threatening situation than it is to be polite. They also need to know that it is okay to tell you what happened, and they won't be tattletales.

· Be observant. Know what or who does and does not belong in your neighborhood. Report suspicious vehicles and people in the area and around schools and daycares.

· Know who your kids are with. Make sure you know the adults and their background in which your child interacts with such as caregivers, coaches and volunteers. Be cautious of adults you suddenly want children interaction yet do not have children or are not in a relationship themselves.

· Education. Educate yourself and your children about the possible dangers. Children who may struggle socially or seem sad and lonely are more likely to be befriended by potential predator.

· Know your child's computer activity. Privacy should not be an excuse for not being aware of what your children are looking at or who they are communicating with on the computer.

 

Is "stranger danger"-that dangers to kids come from strangers-really a myth?

· Yes. In the majority of cases, the perpetrator is someone the parents or child knows, and that person may be in a position of trust or responsibility to the child and family. We have learned that children do not have the same understanding of who a stranger is as an adult might; therefore, it is a difficult concept for the child to grasp. It is much more beneficial to children to help them build the confidence and self-esteem they need to stay as safe as possible in any potentially dangerous situation they encounter rather than teaching them to be "on the lookout" for a particular type of person.

  Parents should choose opportunities or "teachable" moments to reinforce safety skills. If an incident occurs in your community and your child asks you about it, speak frankly but with reassurance. Explain to your children that you want to discuss the safety rules with them, so that they will know what to do if they are ever confronted with a difficult situation. Make sure you have "safety nets" in place, so that your children know there is always someone who can help them.

 

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