Local expert talks about warning signs of child abuse, grooming

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 5:51 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - There have been quite a few stories lately about adults taking advantage of kids, but experts say parents can help protect their children by having important conversations with them.

A local priest convicted of sex trafficking, a Bryan City Schools teacher charged with soliciting children and a Jefferson Schools official arrested in a human trafficking sting are a few of the stories that have come into the 13abc newsroom in the last month.

These stories beg the question, ‘what can be done to protect the kids?’

“I think it’s important to have conversations with your kids about what is a safe and unsafe touch because, back in the day, we would say a good or bad touch. But sometimes, bad touches feel good,” said Dr. Christie Jenkins, the Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center CEO.

Jenkins says abuse manifests in atypical behaviors such as wetting the bed after they’ve long been potty trained or getting stomachaches or headaches.

“Any sort of new or unusual behavior occurs when you don’t want to be somewhere, don’t want to be around someone,” said Jenkins.

According to Jenkins, in about 90% of cases, the abuser is someone the child trusts.

An example of this would be “if someone has an over-vested interest in your child, so, ‘Oh, I know you work. I can take Timmy all the time,” said Jenkins.

It’s very important to recognize the signs of grooming.

“There might be wrestling or buying a child things,” said Jenkins. “Then, they might do something and say ‘oh, don’t tell anyone because no one will believe you or you’ll get in trouble.’”

Jenkins says more than anything, talk with your child about what kinds of behaviors are inappropriate.

“I know that parents feel incredibly uncomfortable, but if you don’t teach them, other folks will -- and in a negative way,” said Jenkins. “So, you need to be the first line of defense with your children.”

If you want to help teaching your child, the Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center has classes that your kids can take.

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