Experts talk child sex abuse and how to protect your children

KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) With the news of child sexual abuse rocking the nation and our community, there are steps parents can take to keep their children safe.

At the Children’s Advocacy Center of Central Texas in Belton, officials say 73 percent of children are possible victims of sexual abuse.

“Of those kids, 98 percent of those children knew their offender,” said executive director Michelle Carter.

Child Protective Services reported nearly 1,300 cases of abuse in Bell County in 2017. Whether committed by a religious leader or someone close to the victim, what happens when these crimes aren’t reported?

”It can not only cause question for who that child is. They can question everything that they have ever been taught as far as religion goes and as far as family goes,” Dr. Tammy Bracewell said.

Bracewell has investigated crimes against children for years. She is currently a professor at Texas A&M University Central Texas in Killeen.

“The church is frequently an extension of that family. There is a lot of trust put into albeit a minister, elder or priest,” she said.

A trust that has sadly been broken too many times by some of the people the child trusts the most. Parents should be cautious and attentive to their children.

“Being conscious and aware of the people that are pushing to spend time with your child. If there are red flags there, believe them. If the child is reluctant of someone or fearful of someone, take note of that,” Carter said.

Asking groups about their “no one-on-one” policy is also a must for parents, Carter said.

“We need to be open with our children about what sexual abuse is, what their body parts are, what’s appropriate and not appropriate for anybody,” she added.

The Children’s Advocacy Center serves children ages 2 to 17 who have been alleged victims of abuse or neglect or witnessed a crime. The center is also able to provide assistance to those children and families in need.