HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – When we think of child predators, the cliche image of a creepy stranger in a van, driving down a suburban neighborhood road, may come to mind.
But we’ve got it all wrong.
Studies find 90% of people who sexually abuse children are known by the child – 30% are family members, and 60% are known and trusted by the child’s family.
When sexual abuse is discovered, the news is often met with disbelief and shock.
“They don’t think people who are around children would hurt them,” said Deborah Callins, Prevention Director at the National Children’s Advocacy Center.
The statistics are staggering, and the allegations never easy to process, but Callins says churches and organizations have been making strides to prevent child abuse.
“When they’re hiring they’re doing the checks they need to do, and checking on volunteers as well or having multiple adults in the rooms with the children,” said Callins. “I think there has been a great improvement, but it happens.”
When that is not enough to prevent sexual abuse, Callins says it comes down to the parents, the child, and honest communication to uncover the crime.
“I think part of it is how we educate our children as we raise them, [teaching them] about body safety, healthy sexuality, that their bodies are theirs and people aren’t supposed to touch their bodies,” said Callins.
Most importantly, an adult must trust a child’s claims.
“Believe children when they say something and report it. You don’t need to get into the details, that’s what the professionals are trained to do.”