Sandusky sex abuse verdict: What parents need to know

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sad kidThe recent conviction of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky is once again putting the spotlight on the problem of child sexual abuse. Experts estimate 80 thousand incidents of sexual abuse of children are reported each year, but it's believed many more incidents go unreported because children are afraid to tell anyone.

"Parents should stress the importance of trust and communication early in the parent-child relationship," says Dr. Nina Kayce, a licensed psychologist at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital in Baltimore, adding "it's never too early to educate your child about sexual abuse and respecting his or her body," Dr. Kayce adds.


Tips for parents

Dr. Kayce offers these tips for parents and caregivers to help get the conversation going:

• Talk to your child about "secrets" and "tattling." Remember: children are most often abused by someone they know and trust – these individuals will often use secrets and/or threats.

• Give your child the language he or she needs to discuss body parts. Model appropriate conversations about his or her body so your child feels comfortable discussing it with you.

• Explain good and bad touches and provide specific rules (do not base these rules on what feels good or bad). Review good and bad touch so your child feels comfortable talking to you about it.

• Have frequent "check-in" conversations with your child. Don't expect him or her to come to you. Also trust your instincts as a parent – if you suspect something, ask!

If your child displays some of the following behaviors, it may or may not be a sign of abuse, and should be followed up by your pediatrician or a child psychologist: changes in sleep (sudden nightmares), changes in academic performance, social withdrawal, avoiding a certain person, sexualized behavior, language or knowledge inappropriate for the child's age, just to name a few.

If you live in the Baltimore area and you suspect sexual abuse, call the Baltimore Child Abuse Center: 410-396-6147, or dial 911.

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