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Protecting children from sexual abuse

Protecting children from sexual abuse

SPOKANE, Wash. - From Hollywood, to the sports world and, even in the halls of United States government, new stories are cropping up every day of victims finding the courage to come forward and tell their stories of sexual assault.

Now, decorated Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman has bravely come forward to say she was abused by the team doctor for years under the guise of treatment.

Raisman said she was uncomfortable with the treatments, but was told he was the best of the best and trustworthy. She called him a nice guy. Her parents say if they could go back in time, they'd tell their daughter predators aren't always strangers.

Her story can serve as a warning for parents everywhere.

Dan Fox has worked as a therapist for Lutheran Community Services in Spokane for 15 years and says on average, the center sees 1,000 children a year connected to physical and sexual abuse.

“The majority of the offenders are someone the victim knows,” said Fox.

A parent, coach, babysitter, teacher, a person the victim loves and trusts. 

He says its important to know that very rarely does a abuser start with sexual assault, it's usually precipitated by a period of grooming.

“Grooming is the process of getting somebody to feel safe with you and then using that feeling of safety against them for their own sexual gratification,” explained Fox.

It can also be done to the parents of victims. That's why having a good, open line of communication with your child is key in prevention. Fox recommends starting the conversation early. A way to explain it for all ages to understand is by referring to the swimsuit area.

“If somebody is violating your swimsuit area and its not for an appropriate reason like a doctor doing an exam with a parent in the room, that's going to be something where you teach your kids to say, 'hey, this just happened, someone touched my swimsuit area,' “ said Fox.

Some of the most common signs a child has been abused include changes in schoolwork, nightmares, and acting out.

“The tough thing is some of the times, none of the signs are there,” he added.

If your child does come to you to voice concerns, take them seriously.

“There is no benefit to coming forward to a parent and saying 'hey this was uncomfortable and i don't know what to do,'” said Fox.

For more information on discussing sexual assault, click here. For warning signs a child might be being abused, click here.