Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Talking points. Delaware pediatrician indictment and the prevention of sexual abuse.

Many of you are aware that a pediatrician in Delaware was indicted on multiple counts in the alleged sexual abuse of his patients. Below please find the talking points we have developed in response to the case and our position on the prevention of sexual abuse.

This is a
situation that should be discussed publicly, but one where we would like to raise some points that are not being discussed.

While the alleged perpetrator will be the focus of much of the discussion, we wish to change the focus to “what could have been done to prevent these children from being harmed”?

The right questions are now being asked by local authorities as to a) who had earlier suspicions about the pediatrician’s behavior, b) did the licensing board meet both the letter and the spirit of the law when it came to their attention several years ago, and c) what changes in policy must be made.

REMINDER: About 90% of the sexual abuse cases involves a person close and known to a child; stranger danger is real, but is a much smaller percentage of sexual abuse cases.

This incident points to the facts that:

It is the not the responsibility of the child to keep themselves safe, it is an adults.

Abuse can happen to any child, regardless of wealth.

We all have a role to play in the development of our children and that includes becoming involved in situations where children’s well-being is or can be jeopardized.

Situations such as this in a child’s life could result in life-long adversities including a greater potential for mental health and health issues, substance abuse, delinquency and criminal behavior and that costs our nation $104 billion to remediate when abuse and neglect is not prevented.

The trial is the not the end of the story, we should ask many questions and share the lessons learned.

Once the trial and the Governor’s investigation are completed, we need to take action and the public should demand it.

Children Need Your Help to Stay Safe

Take an active role in children’s lives:

Both the activities children are involved in and the people in children’s lives.

Talking to children regularly about what they’re doing can help you stay alert for possible problems.

Know about sexual predators and you with sexual behavior problems and how they work.

Teach children important skills to help them protect themselves. Make sure they know they can talk to you about anything that’s bothering them or if they feel mixed-up or confused.

Be alert for signs of sexual abuse. If you suspect or are told abuse, report it right away.

Support community efforts, for example:

Volunteer your time to organizations that help protect children.

Getting involved in public education campaigns that help raise awareness.

Things parent should look for as possible symptoms of sexual abuse:

Physical signs include:

Stained or torn underwear.

Trouble walking, sitting or going to the bathroom.

Difficulty swallowing or eating.

Emotional signs include:

Depression, anxiety, anger or mood swings.

Fears of certain places, people or activities.

Nightmares or sudden fear of the dark.

Behavioral signs include - for example these children may:

Act out sexually or show knowledge of sex that’s not appropriate for their age.

Show self-destructive behavior, such as pulling their hair or cutting their skin.

Act younger that their age, such as wetting the bed or sucking their thumb.

All children are different; parents know when something is wrong and should trust their instincts.

What parents can do:

Believe the child - children usually don’t make up stories of sexual abuse.

Get help for the child.

Be careful with questions - try to find out as much as you can about what happened, but avoid leading questions.

Report it!


Depending on the age of the child, stay in the room during a physical.

Talk to their child prior to a medical visit and after the examination.

Point out to the medical staff any discomfort you as a parent have with an examination and or procedure.

All children should know that they can come to you or another adult if they feel mixed-up or confused, or if someone is not listening when they set limits about play or touch.

Teach children:

The right names of their body parts.

When they should talk to you - for example, when any behavior confuses them and when touching or other situations make them feel uncomfortable, mixed-up or confused.

When not to keep secrets - help children understand the difference between secrets and surprises.

That no one has the right to touch them if they don’t want to be touched.

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