Talking to kids about sex abuse emotional but necessary - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Talking to kids about sex abuse emotional but necessary

Keeping the lines of communication open between parent and child is important. (Source: MGN Online) Keeping the lines of communication open between parent and child is important. (Source: MGN Online)

Court documents show James McCullars came into contact with hundreds of children in North Alabama. The news of his indictment now has many parents concerned their own kids could be victims of sexual abuse.

How should you talk to your children about this issue? We sat down with a representative of the National Children's Advocacy Center to find out how parents can talk about this sensitive subject with their kids.

She said parents should understand this won't just be one conversation, and they need to be prepared for anything.

Linda Cordisco-Steele is the senior trainer, and a child forensic interview specialist at the NCAC in Huntsville. She said news of a local Boy Scout volunteer facing child pornography charges can be distressing to parents, as they immediately fear their own child is a victim.

"These cases are challenging because there is no reason to think that every child who came in contact with him suffered any kind of mistreatment or abuse," she said.

But it is crucial you find out if they did. She said most children won't come forward on their own.

"Kids don't tell for lots of reasons. We know that they are either fearful or they are embarrassed. Often children think it's their fault," she explained.

Having that conversation can be tough, so she advises working through your own emotions before talking to your child.

"I would start with questions about what they remember about this man, what kind of things they did with him, the kind of interactions they had," she said.

After having the conversation, Cordisco-Steele said parents should remain observant of any changes in their child's behavior.

"The challenge with looking for behaviors is that there are no behaviors that are particularly unique to sexual abuse," she said.

Some kids will react more than others to the news, but one red flag she points out is if a child is especially upset or has no reaction. She said it's important your child understands the kids involved in the case are not in trouble or responsible in any way.

If a parent finds out their child is a victim of sexual abuse, it is important to report it immediately. Contact your local law enforcement agency first, then the Department of Human Resources, who will coordinate their investigations.

If you are a Huntsville local, the National Children's Advocacy Center will also get involved. The center has a group of therapists, victim's advocates and medical personnel who will help the child and their family get through the ordeal.

For those worried about others finding out, we are told these agencies make privacy a top priority.

"It's a terrible burden and secret to carry by yourself. While it is frightening, a lot of people are anxious about what is going to happen and question whether they are making the right choice. There is an opportunity to let go of that secret and let go of that burden," said Cordisco-Steele.

She also said it's important you leave the door open for your child to come to you at any point with their questions or concerns.

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