SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - If you are a parent and you haven't talked to your child about the difference between good touching and bad touching, child abuse experts say do it now. The numbers of child abuse and neglect cases investigated by the Mississippi Department of Human Services for April, May and June average about 2,000 per month.
Just this week, law enforcement officials say long time South Mississippi teacher Richard Pryor confessed to molesting at least eight boys over a 20 year span. Child abuse experts talked about why some victims don't speak up.
Marilyn Montgomery works for the Jackson County Youth court as an abuse and neglect intake officer. She said in many of sexual abuse cases, the children don't tell anyone what's happening because they're too afraid.
"You don't know what the perpetrator has said to the child. Children take threats serious," said Montgomery. "If you say to me 'I'm going to hurt your mama,' I'm not going to say anything because I take that seriously that you really will hurt my mama. Fear is a motivator for a lot of that."
"For some kids it's guilt. It's shame because they may have found pleasure in the abuse. But that's only because we're sexual beings by nature and their mind doesn't understand that concept," said Montgomery.
Experts urge parents to use simple, age appropriate ways to teach their children the difference between good touching and bad touching. There are books as well as materials available on the internet. Parents also need to tell children that no one is allowed to cross certain boundaries.
"Children become comfortable with those who are in charge of them. They have trust in people who hold positions of authority," said Montgomery. "So if someone with authority over you makes a demand of you, children should know there are things that shouldn't be asked of them. There are things they shouldn't be asked to do."
If parents do find out their child has been sexually abused Montgomery said seek professional counseling.
"The one thing you want to ensure is the child is aware they are not responsible for the actions of somebody who victimized them, so they don't have to bear a burden or feel guilty because something happened to them."
As not all children are able to verbalize what is happening to them, experts said parents should also look for warning signs.
"When a child is victimized they change. Watch for signs of behavior. If your children start becoming more introverted, withdrawn, sad all the time, clingy especially in young children," Montgomery said. "If they all of a sudden become clingy and start regressing as far as potty training and going to the bathroom. They lose their appetite. There are visual signs parents should look for. We need to know our children. Know our children's habits. When their habits start to change, you might want to start having some dialogue and conversation with your child to see if there is something going on."