April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The Western Illinois Regional Council and Community Action Agency serves six local counties. According to Victims Services Director Diane Mayfield, 62 percent of the reported sexual assault cases that were reported in their district during this past fiscal year were clients ages 17 or younger.
Mayfield breaks down what parents should do if they are suspicious or worried about a possible sexual assault situation:
“If you believe that there is something going on with your child, you can visit with them and just simply say, ‘Things seem to be different. Is something going on that I can help you with?’ but not be specific. Let the child disclose what is happening,” she said.
Mayfield warns of changes in behavior, especially around the perpetrator, a child acting out, and children talking about inappropriate things as signs of possible abuse.
“Grooming” was a technique Mayfield described used by abusers to gauge how children will react to certain physical interactions.
“What they’ll do is, befriend them. They will find out what is interesting to the child. They will get involved with that with them. They will begin by simple touching or bumping into the child to see how the child reacts,” Mayfield stated.
The Victims Services Director at WIRC says the first person who is alerted of a possible assault is vital in the victim’s healing process.
“When someone – whether it’s child or adult – tells that something has happened to them, if the person they’re telling doesn’t believe them, that will often stop everything right there,” she said.
The WIRC asks those that are being confided in to do their due diligence about this serious matter.
If you know someone that needs help, call the WIRC 24-hour hotline at 309-837-5555.
written by Jackson Kane