(Memphis) Police arrested a man for allegedly having sex with his 11-year-old daughter, after her mother found disturbing entries in the girl’s diary.
In order to protect the identity of the victim, News Channel 3 will not be showing the name or face of her father, who is now in jail.
Experts said that unfortunately, child sexual abuse often happens with a member of the family or adult family friend, making it even more difficult for a child to speak up.
“They don’t know what the result will be of disclosing abuse. They don’t know what will happen to them. Sometimes the offender will say things to scare the child,” said Dr. Randy Schnell, director of the Memphis City Schools Mental Health Center.
Dr. Schnell recommends parents have an open line of communication with their children. He said that parents should watch for sudden changes, like if the child becomes angrier, starts to misbehave more often, or becomes very withdrawn.
“Sometimes children express their experiences in writing assignments at school,” he said.
The victim of this most recent case wrote about the incidents in her diary, dating them between January 13th and February 3rd.
If parents suspect strange behavior, they should ask the child what’s wrong, without asking leading questions about specific incidents.
Experts, like people at the Memphis Child Advocacy Center or the Rape Crisis Center, are trained in how to interview children who have been abused.
The Memphis Child Advocacy Center also has training for people to learn how to identify child abuse.
Christina Underhill attended one of the three-hour training sessions more than a year ago. She felt so strongly about it, she became a volunteer for the center.
During the session, Underhill said “they also play some very poignant videos of adults who are former child victims of sexual abuse. And in their words, they go through the situation they went through, how they felt. And how important they felt it would have been for any other adult in their life to have spoken up.”
She learned to talk early, and talk often, to her children, even if the topic is uncomfortable.
“If you don’t feel comfortable talking to mom and dad, you can talk to your aunt or uncle. Or go to grandma.”
She said it’s important to talk to children about good touch versus bad touch, and how it is ok to say ‘no’ to an adult.
If you are a child who needs help, you can use “Call for Kids,” an initiative of Mayor Wharton. That number is (901) 274-7477.
To report a case of child abuse, call the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services hotline at 1-877-237-0004.