Protecting children against sexual predators

Former Penn State Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky faces 40 charges of sexual abuse against young boys. On Sunday, Syracuse University fired Assistant Basketball Coach Bernie Fine after allegations he sexual abused three children.

In both cases, it took years for victims to report the alleged abuse to authorities, and the allegations against Sandusky include victims as young as seven-years-old.

The non-profit organization Darkness to Light, whose mission is to end child sexual abuse, says 20 percent of all child sexual abuse victims are under eight-years-old.

"Speak to the child at the level or their interest," said Christopher Galton. "When a child starts talking about sexual parts, like what is this, then a parent can start teaching them about good touching and bad touching."

Galton is a child, adult and family counselor who advises parents and children how to talk about sexual abuse.

Children's curiosity brings out questions constantly, said Galton. But he advises not to bring up questions that children don't bring up themselves.

"If a child asks you why do I have a penis and my sister does not, you don't have to tell them about sexual intercourse."

A parent must walk a thin line in order to keep a conversation about sexual abuse simple, but not necessarily black and white, said Galton. "We don't want to put it in the simplest form like, 'if you touch someone, you go to jail,' because that is not always the case. But we have to put it simple for them."

Parents need to use personal judgement on what age they should talk to their children about inappropriate touching, said Galton. He tells parents talking to children five years old or younger about sexual abuse is appropriate.

Though children often keep abuse to themselves, there are signs parents can look for if they suspect their child is a victim.

"There are a lot of signs. However, the problem is there is no definite one size fits all child."

The signs may include a child that is more knowledgeable of sexual conduct than the norm of that age group, sexually provocative or even shy and afraid.

"A parent has to be careful because a lot of kids will act this way and not be a victim," said Galton. "A parent has to look for a cluster of symptoms rather just one."