Local experts provide tips to protect your child during Child Abuse Prevention Month
Physical and sexual abuse: it's a situation that no parent wants to see their child go through.
While loved ones want to help, many children stay silent, enduring pain usually by someone they know or care for.
And with April being Child Abuse Prevention Month, we wanted to provide some tips on how to help your loved one.
Just in Wicomico County, more than 500 victims have been physically or sexually abused and those are just the cases that we're aware of.
"Unfortunately, with sexual assault, you're not going to see physical changes. You're going to see changes in behavior. Maybe behavior in their actions with someone else or in things they no longer want to do," Abby Marsh, Life Crisis Center Executive Director tells us.
While it may be hard to grasp, the abuser grooms the victim making it harder for the child to speak up. The quicker a victim speaks out, the quicker they'll get on the road to recovery and even prosecution.
But to get to that point, you're probably wondering when it's a good time to start talking to them. We're told it's never too early.
As soon as they start speaking, it's best for them to say the names of their body parts rather than giving them a nickname. That way, if something does happen, they can articulate what's actually happening to them.
Another tip, to address which body parts are okay or not okay to touch.
And the quicker your child discloses information, the faster an investigation can be launched and moved forward. If something is said, do not react or ask additional questions.
"A child is going to look to you to whether or not it is safe to tell and if there is a reaction whether it's anger or shock. Sometimes the child may shut down because the child may feel that you don't want to hear what they have to say. Don't ask any additional questions, really do not go beyond that it can actually damage a case. Because attorneys spin it so you say oh fed the child information, that's why this child is telling you this," Marsh says.
The next step is to contact the Child Advocacy Center to bring in a team to help. We're told it will be assigned to a child protective services workers to do an interview.
But the most important thing you can do for your child is to believe them. We're told children need to feel like they have a safe circle.