How to protect your child from sexual abuse

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)-- If you walk into Childhelp Children's Center of East Tennessee you'll find a large play room with all kinds of toys and books. It's a place where kids can be kids.

"When they come through the door and see this center, they immediately become relaxed and feel more playful," said Director Pamela Dickey.

Hundreds of children have been through this room at the center, but not just to play, to tell their stories of abuse. Most of the kids they work with are victims of sexual abuse.

"Most kids are abused by people who are known to the family or to the child, so we need to teach our children that even if someone they like or love break the touching rules they need to they need to tell their parents about it or an authority about it," Dickey said.

She suggested the easiest way for parents to explain it to kids is no one should touch any parts your swimsuit covers.

"The other really important rule every family should have is there are no secrets in the family. There are surprises," Dickey said. That's because abusers often times ask their victims to keep it a secret.

There are several ways to protect your child:
- Participate in your child's activities and get to know your child's friends
- Teach your child the differences beteween good touches, bad touches
- Be aware of changes in your child's behavior
- Listen when your child tells you he or she does not want to be with someone

"If your child is acting differently, if your child is avoiding certain different people, if your child's behavior has changed you might just want to ask them if anything has happened that's made them uncomfortable and leave the door open for them to tell you," Dickey said.

There are signs of sexual abuse:
- Inappropriate interest or knowledge of sexual acts
- Nightmares and bed wetting
- Drastic change in appetite
- Overcompliance or excessive aggression
- Fear of particular person of family member

For more information on Childhelp, you can call: 865-637-1753.

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