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Child Sex Abuse Survey Shows Reporting Problems, People Scared Of Talking To Kids

Lauren Book, a sexual abuse survivor and victims advocate, speaking to a group of kids.

A new survey commissioned by a sexual abuse survivor says child abuse occurs more frequently than people think, and reporting the suspected abuse does not happen as much as it should.

It’s an issue that’s been playing out on a national stage with the Duggar family featured on one of TLC’s most popular shows, “19 Kids and Counting.” The show is about Jim Bob and Michelle as well as their ever-growing family. But, recently the news broke that Josh Duggar—their eldest son—had molested several girls, including his own sisters, when he was younger. And, in a recent FOX News interview, parents Jim Bob and Michelle gave their thoughts on the situation.

“Well, 12 years ago, we went through one of the darkest times that our family has ever gone through. And, our son Josh came to us all on his own, and he was crying, and he had just turned 14, and he said he had actually improperly touched some of our daughters,” said Jim Bob.

“And, we were shocked,” added Michelle. “We were just devastated. I don’t think any parent is prepared for a trauma like that.”

Speaking to Megyn Kelly, Jim Bob Duggar talked more about what went through their mind at the time as the parents decided what to do with the then-teenager.

“Did legal ever pop into your mind, that you may have legal obligations,” asked Kelly.

“You know, as parents, you’re not mandatory reporters. The law allows for parents to do what they think is best for the child. So, we got him out of the home, and that was probably the best decision we made throughout this process,” replied Jim Bob.

Duggar’s comment about parents not being mandatory reporters is a common misconception among many Floridians, says Karen Cyphers, the Vice President of Research and Policy at Sachs Media Group.

“Florida law requires all people to report suspected child sexual abuse. However, one in four women and one in six men wrongly assume that only certain types of people, such as teachers or doctors, must report suspected cases,” said Cyphers.

Cyphers helped conduct a recent online survey that reviewed the responses of more than 1,000 Floridians on child sexual abuse. Similar to the Duggar’s situation, she says people trying to deal with the problem in-house is also prevalent among Florida families as well.

“Of those who know that reporting is mandatory, one in six of them would try to deal with the sexual abuse of a child in their family as a private matter first, rather than going straight to the authorities,” added Cyphers. “So, part of it is an awareness issue about the law, but part of it speaks more to what is standing in people’s way from doing what is morally right and legally correct.”

In fact, she says the survey showed that an alarming number of parents are actually scared of talking to their kids about these kinds of issues.

“48 percent of respondents felt that discussing child sexual abuse could scare or disturb children, and half—50 percent—report that they are unsure of what to tell children to watch out for. These findings point strongly for the need for both child and sexual abuse prevention,” continued Cyphers.

And, sexual abuse survivor and advocate Lauren Book says that’s not the only thing that’s troubling. She’s also the co-founder of the Lauren’s Kids Foundation—which commissioned the study.

“What’s really scary and what is the prevailing thought in what people truly and genuinely believe is that a child 13 or younger, or 18 or younger, or anybody acts in a certain way that would entice a sexual assault is truly horrific,” said Book.

Overall, Book says there’s still more work left to do on this issue.

“The finding from the poll results really help to shine light on how much work we have left to do to better educate our finds, neighbors, teachers, coworkers, and families about how to prevent sexual abuse and recognize the signs of abuse,” added Book.

She says if anyone wants to learn more about ways to talk to kids about this issue in a safe way, they can look into her curriculum that’s already in many Florida schools called “Safer, Smarter Kids.” For more information on the survey, visit LaurensKids.org.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.