Time to talk about sex abuse. Recent high-profile cases raise awareness of what adults can do to help protect kids.

Nikki Mowbray, director of Stewards of Children, speaks to participants in a class at the University of Delaware last week about how to detect and prevent child sex abuse. / JENNIFER CORBETT/The News Journal

Sometime in 2009, a grand jury in Pennsylvania quietly began investigating child sexual abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky after a teen boy came forward to authorities and alleged the retired Penn State football coach touched him inappropriately over a four-year period.

Later that same year in Delaware, Lewes pediatrician Earl Bradley was arrested on charges he sexually assaulted more than 100 patients, mostly girls younger than 3.

Sandusky’s recent conviction on more than four dozen child sex abuse charges was a painful bookend to Bradley’s conviction last year, both high-profile reminders these crimes happen more often than people may think or want to admit.

It may be human nature to avoid talking about what happened, but to erase the stigma of child sexual abuse there needs to be more dialogue, not less, said Karen DeRasmo, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Delaware.

“There’s lot of blame and stigma attached to this whole topic,” DeRasmo said. “I’m not sure there are that many crimes where there is so much concern about talking. If someone was a victim of a mugging, would it be terrible if they talked about it?”

Advocates say it’s not just talking about the details of the abuse, but focusing on ways to prevent similar crimes from happening.

It’s about empowering adults with the tools they need to talk to children about what’s going on in their lives and ferret any potential risks to their safety, said DeRasmo.

It’s about making sure adults understand their responsibility to report child abuse suspicions.

Adults bear the responsibility of protecting children from becoming victims of sexual abuse, said Beau Biden, Delaware attorney general. That includes taking steps to limit adult access to children in one-on-one situations, encouraging institutions that care for children to provide training for their staff and educating parents about how to talk to their children.

“We have a moment of time where the national focus is on how we protect our children,” Biden said. “Out of this tragedy, we must find something good.”

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