CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – St. George Police have arrested Mark Carlisle Childers for three counts of criminal sexual misconduct, and although there are many unanswered questions, experts say talking to a child about abuse is one of the hardest conversations to have.
Dr. Carole Swiecicki, Executive Director for Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center, says it starts with developing a relationship where you can talk to your son or daughter about anything. She says parents typically get a feeling of discomfort when they sense something is wrong with their child or children.
“The main sign that’s out there is when a child says that something’s happened.” Swiecicki said. “That’s that main thing that adults stay calm and believe their child to get them to somebody who’s job it is to actually investigate that and not feel like they have to do that right in the moment.”
According to Swiecicki, 90% of the time with physical and sexual abuse the offender is someone the family knows. St. George Police Department says that’s the case with Childers.
Swiecicki says it’s could be a relative, a close friend, or a close family friend. She says the emotional and behavioral symptoms in a child that’s been abused tends to be similar whether it was by someone in the family or outside of the family.
Although, she says when it’s someone the family knows, it typically takes the child longer to say something about the traumatic experience. In fact, she says one in four children tell within the first month of their experience.
“It’s very unusual that a child will tell about physical or sexual abuse right away,” she said. “We consider it immediate if a child tells within a month, anything after that first month is considered delayed disclosure.”
Swiecicki says the signs and symptoms are different in children dependent on their age.
” Younger children, you’re more likely to see kind of dis regulation in their behavior, maybe more temper tantrums, they’re suddenly crying,and they may be having a more difficult time managing those emotions,” she said. “With older children, you’ll often see more things that include withdrawing and not talking as much, staying in their room a lot, seeming really sad and nervous or depressed. ”
Swiecicki says other common symptoms are fear, acting differently, or disconnecting to others.
She says the healing process is a long journey, but it starts with talking to your child about what happened and then seeking help.