Health
5:00 pm
Fri July 13, 2012

Child Abuse Signs and Signals

Thursday's report by Judge Louis Freeh encouraged citizens to be more agressive in reporting sexual abuse. Joan Mills, manager of Pittsburgh Mercy Health System's "A Child's Place," said she hopes it encourages people to speak up about suspicions they might have.

"People can be kind to your child and show attention to your child, sure," Mills said. "Where there is gift buying, where there is a desire to be alone with your child, to take your child on trips and you're not there, I think red flags should be all over the place."

Mills said the first part of the grooming process is secret-keeping, and she suggested parents tell their children that no one should tell a child to keep secrets from their parents.

"It couldn't be successful if secrets weren't kept," Mills said.

Mills said the lesson learned should be coming to a better understanding of how institutions handle sexual abuse. She said changes need to be made because it will happen again.

"I can assure you that no one is immune to it, and it can come knocking on anyone's door," Mills said.

A Child's Place has seen more than 26,000 children, and Mills said they are in the process of assisting organizations, school districts and sports teams to make policies about sexual abuse.

"We're shocked to find out that schools do not have a policy, and summer camps and government entities where there are little leagues being run don't have a policy and don't require clearances of coaches," Mills said.

Mills said an adult child pedophile has an average of about 100 victims, and the destruction of a child who falls victim to sexual abuse is tremendous.

"Unless you've looked into the eyes of a child who has lost their soul almost from the result of abuse," Mills said, "you can't imagine the total destruction."