GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- After more arrests were made last week in a child pornography ring in the Battle Creek area, a local child advocacy center is helping raise awareness about the potential warning signs of abuse that they believe parents and caregivers should watch for.
“I think adults need to make sure they are getting themselves educated and they are not being afraid to talk about this topic. Child sexual abuse is not a taboo topic, it’s something we do need to talk more about,” says Misti DeVries, a community advocate with the Children's Advocacy Center of Kent County.
DeVries says victims tend to be 6 to 12 years old, but any child, even infants, can be victims of sexual assault. The center says one in 10 children will be sexually abused and that 90 percent of the victims will be assaulted by somebody they know. There are physical signs to look for like bruising or urinary tract infections, but it's the emotional signs that are more common.
"What you’re really going to recognize are the behavioral signs. And that could be a child who’s withdrawn, fearful, depressed, could be having some suicidal ideations, self-harming behaviors, failing grades,” says DeVries.
DeVries says abusers try to groom children into thinking that what they're doing is okay, confusing them about what's right and wrong. Officials say many arrested on child sex abuse charges are family members, and that sometimes what is not being said is the thing you should worry about most.
"Kids who aren’t getting the help they need that sets them up PTSD, alcoholism, drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, all sorts of things, depression," says DeVries.