EXPLAINER: Expert offers best ways to protect children from sexual abuse

Project Harmony in Omaha offers tips for ensuring the safety of your child amid the prominent nature and ongoing issue of child abuse.
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 6:58 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Federal investigators are trying to connect with anyone who may have been a victim of sexual assault as a child while attending The Dance Authority in Sarpy County from 2012 to 2022.

The former co-owner, Nick Murphy, is facing federal charges of child sexual assault.

As the situation unfolds, 6 News is on your side with how you can protect your kids and identify signs of potential abuse.

Whether you’re a parent or a caregiver, it’s more common than you realize for a child to be a victim of abuse.

In the United States, one out of nine girls and one out of 20 boys under the age of 18 experience some form of assault.

“When something like this happens, it’s very difficult for caregivers to navigate this whole process,” Brazil said. “So, they should think about how to talk to their child about this and thinking about managing their own emotions and children’s emotions.”

Colleen Brazil is the director of children’s services at Project Harmony.

It’s a nonprofit that helps treat and prevent child abuse. She told 6 News there are several steps that caregivers can take to protect their child from being victimized.

The first step is to understand the risks a child can face. The second is to eliminate opportunities for a child to be isolated with adults. The third is to be open to communication. The last is to react responsibly.

“One of the things we like to let caregivers know is that it’s not so much them needing to question children about things, but really being there to listen to their children,” Brazil said.

Brazil said there are signs when a child has been potentially abused. That is if there’s a change in behavior and if they’re reluctant to engage in everyday activities.

“Making sure as a caregiver that they’re paying attention to their reactions,” Brazil said. “Then, if they have questions seek professional help if they’re unsure what to do with their child’s behavior or what their child is saying.”

However, the most important thing is to always be there for your child and validate their feelings. While the signs may not always indicate child abuse, it is a big warning.