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Research: “Stranger Danger” Child Sexual Abuse Myth Thrives

April 26, 2010

BOISE, Idaho - More than 90 percent of parents tell their children to 'beware the stranger' when it comes to sexual abuse, but at least 85 percent of child sexual abusers are in fact relatives or people children know. Those new findings are from the Child Abuse Research Education and Services Institute, and Susie Fenger with the Family Services Network in the Idaho city of Driggs says it shows there is a lot of work to be done to protect kids. She trains Idahoans through "Stewards of Children" workshops to help parents understand how abusers earn their trust, as well as the child's trust, and how they gain unsupervised access to the child.

"The number-one reason why child sexual abuse is able to thrive the way it does, is because the majority of us are uneducated as to what environment it lives in."

Fenger says parents and caring adults need to speak up to protect kids. When children are attending recreational, educational, or church programs, parents should ask questions about the organization's sexual abuse prevention policies, and make sure any one-on-one contact is accessible and interruptible.

"Ask for credentials, make sure folks have had background checks, and minimize the one adult-one child opportunities."

The Idaho Children's Trust Fund is sponsoring the workshops.

The research results are published in the current issue of the journal Child Maltreatment.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - ID