PALM DESERT, Calif. -- - "It's costing billions of dollars in drug and alcohol rehab, and DUIs, and road rage, and accidents; you know, all these things," says Psychotherapist Carol Teitelbaum.
The "it"? Child sexual abuse.
The Centers for Disease Control say one in six men and one in four women in America are sexually abused before turning 18.
Chances are, unless you are actively dealing with the aftermath of child sexual abuse, it's off your radar. But it's reality.
Every year Teitelbaum tours high schools in the Coachella Valley, and says parents are oblivious.
"We let the kids do anonymous cards, and the teacher says, "That's impossible, the numbers can't be that big." Every year he says that," Teitelbaum explains. "The first class there were 42 students, 18 of them at that moment were being abused as freshman. Right now, today, 2014, they were being abused and they hadn't told anybody."
In January 2013, police arrested Palm Springs High School teacher Ronald Bishop in the school parking lot after parents complained about explicit text messages Bishop allegedly sent their son.
"That parent that saw that phone, helped countless people. Who knows how many," says Detective Daniel Marshall with the Indio Police Department.
Evidence found at Bishop's home in Indio lead police to believe there are at least two more child victims in Riverside County. The English teacher is charged with nine felony counts of child sexual assault and a misdemeanor. There is warrant for his arrest in South Dakota for another victim. He'll be arrested once court proceedings are over in California.
"Parents have to trust their own spidey senses, their own instincts," says Detective Marshall, "and if you have an instinct, it's probably right."
These violating acts against innocent minds can lead to a lifetime of wounds we don't always see.
"Some of the worst abuse is the least damaging physically. It's done by someone they trust," says Teitelbaum.
In fact, 90% of child victims know and trust their offender, according to the Department of Justice.
It's a process called grooming, and it's how perpetrators keep their victims silent.
"They offer kindness and support and encouragement, reinforcement, even probably more than the parents do, and so who wouldn't want that?" but really, Teitelbaum says, they're doing the opposite. "They're breaking it all down so they get trust, then they take advantage of that child."
Detective Marshall has worked on thousands of cases since starting this line of investigating in 2005. He says a pedophile's technique is methodical, and victims can stay silent for decades.
"They can start being groomed once they have that knowledge that their private parts are their private parts. So at six, I've seen pedophiles start grooming that young of age, and the molestation continues for 10, 15 years," Marshall continues, "It wasn't until that person got in high school where they discovered, 'Oh wait; this is wrong. I've been molested for all these years.'"
Eventually the child grows up and sees how that teacher, neighbor, family member used them... Inciting guilt, anger, insecurities. Shame and lack of trust can be the most damaging.
Teitelbaum says not dealing with these feelings can lead victims down a dangerous path.
"When men are abused, especially, they are so angry, and they repress those feelings of anger, and it turns into rage. Then they have road rage and domestic violence, and damage to themselves with drugs and alcohol or cutting or suicide the anger is so prevalent inside and they have nowhere to put it. And it's costing our society a fortune," says Teitelbaum.
Nearly half of women and one tenth of men in the nation's jails and prisons say they suffered physical or sexual abuse.
Professionals say a solution could be vigilant parenting.
Here are a few red flags to looks for in your child:
- Lack of eye contact: The victim feels like they are hiding a secret.
- A slumped posture: An effort to hide his or her body because they feel ashamed
- Really long or really short showers: It's a result of feeling dirty inside.
- Distant or angry: The perpetrator often turns the child against his or her family.
- Drug or alcohol use: A way to numb painful memories or shame.
Also, be aware of gifts from people that seem out of place. Monitor online use. Don't allow a child to have a computer in the bedroom; keep it where you can keep an eye on their online activity.
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If you suspect your child might be a victim, ask the right questions, listen, and report it.
"You can take all the precautions and still.. so you need to be vigilant everyday and do that kind of stuff with your child and be active and involved in their life," explains Detective Marshall.
"The most important thing is to be open, and talk to them, let them know you're not going to shame them or blame them. a lot of time parents go, Why did you do that? Why did you go there? Why did you dress that way" Teitelbaum says, "It's not their fault. No matter what happens to a child, it is not their fault."
If you or someone you know is a victim of child sexual abuse, they do not have to suffer alone. A popular way of coping comes in the form of support groups, much like Alcoholocs Anonymous.
The "It Happens to Boys, Too" conference at the Doral Desert Princess Resort in Cathedral City on March 21st aims to break the silence. The conference is for survivors, parents, teachers, and counselors to learn more and become part of a healing community.
Find more information at: www.CreativeChangeConferences.com.
For more information on resources, statistics, and support, click this visit the American Psychological Association website.