What you can do to stop sexual abuse.
About one in three girls and one in seven boys will experience sexual abuse by age 18. Most abusers are friends, acquaintances or relatives. Strangers account for about 7 percent of sexual abuse.
Sometimes children will tell when abuse occurs. Be alert for signals: Reluctance to visit a friend, relative or family acquaintance; use of sexual or provocative language; genital or anal irritation; self-destructive behavior such as using drugs or alcohol, running away, attempting suicide or sexual promiscuity; unusual anxiety, crying or sleep disturbance; difficulty at school; or behaving like a younger child, thumb sucking or bed-wetting. Be aware of how your children use the Internet.
Abusers often do not respect children's boundaries. They undermine parental authority, may give children lavish or inappropriate gifts, and may encourage children to keep secrets. They may prefer spending time with children rather than adults and seek to spend time uninterrupted or alone with children.
Respect your children's concerns or discomfort. Combine your knowledge of danger signs with your instincts. You might supervise your child's interaction with someone you're concerned about, or stop those interactions. You might warn children about a potentially abusive adult.
If your child reports abuse, reassure your child that he or she is not to blame, that you appreciate being told and that you are concerned, will get help, and will make sure it won't happen again. Contact police.
Sexual Violence Center, Minneapolis: 24-hour hot line for people age 12 or older at 612-871-5111; offers counseling, support groups, legal advice. Call 612-871-5100 or go to www.sexualviolence center.org.
Stop It Now: National resource for research and advice about preventing child sex abuse at www.stopitnow.org.
Boy Scouts: Policies and advice for parents, click on "Youth Protection" at www.scouting.org.
Family Enhancement Center, Minneapolis, counseling and therapy, call 612-827-3028 or go to www.family enhancementcenter.org.