Doctors Julie C. Medlin and Steven K. Knauts spoke to the gathering of Advocates members and interested parents on the subject of child abuse and molestation. They described how to spot potential molesters, identify abuse and the best ways to protect children.
Liz Fox, an Advocates member, described the event as a way to educate the community, and that Advocates may sponsor similar events in the future.
"Because we have a child advocacy center under the auspices of Advocates for Children, we thought it was important to present some preventative info to the community," she said.
The talk's material came from Medlin and Knauts's recently published book, also titled "Avoiding Sexual Dangers."
"We wanted to take our years of clinical experience that we gained from working with perpetrators and try to help other people protect their children," Medlin said. She continued, describing the sexual dangers that that can affect a child -- sexual abuse, exposure to pornography and exposure to adult sexual activity. These dangers have the greatest impact children less than 10 years old, with the impact lessening as the child gets older as they are more developed mentally and more able to understand what they are seeing or experiencing.
To protect a child, Medlin recommended educating the child about sexual abuse, learning about child-on-child abuse, learning how molesters operate and maintaining open communication with the child.
One way to educate a child is teaching them the correct term for their genitalia between the ages of two and five. However, Medlin recognizes that many parents are uncomfortable with those terms and urges parents to use a word they are comfortable with, so the child would still be able to describe any abuse.
When explaining child-on-child abuse, Medlin said that "people just don't know about it."
"Over a third of all child molestations are committed by juveniles, so that's a huge percentage when you think about it," she continued. "Parents need to be thinking about protecting their children not just from adults but also other other children."
Some of the tips offered to spot molesters of all ages include being suspicious of anyone who goes out of their way to spend time with children without good reason, or those who repeatedly volunteer to baby-sit for free. Children receiving multiple gifts or sums of money when it is not their birthday or holiday is another potential indicator.
Knaut, in the second half of the talk, spoke on Internet safety. He urged parents to use filtering software on their computers, while keeping the password hidden from their children. He also suggested that parents disable the Internet browsers on their children's cell phones and gaming systems.
After the talk, Knaut made clear that the talk and the book are not intended to make people paranoid. "You can't depend on other people to look out for your kid's best interests," he said. "You have to do that yourself. It's not about being paranoid. It's about being appropriately skeptical about new people and new situations."