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Jersey Residents Concerned About Child Sex Abuse [AUDIO]

Patrick Lott
Somerset County Prosecutor's Office

The case of an assistant principal accused of videotaping teenage boys in the shower of a Somerville high school is but the latest in a series of disturbing stories involving teachers, coaches and priests accused of child sex assault. Rutgers sociology professor Dr. Debra Carr says “we do seem to be hearing about these stories more and more frequently – in part because the media is willing to cover it – in the past it might have seemed like it was too grizzly to report, and today there’s a recognition that people need to know about it – I think the media coverage is helping to spread the word.”

At the same time she points out “the victims are feeling slightly more empowered than in the past to come forward…studies done about 20 years ago found 3 to 10 percent of all child sexual assault was reported – and children were fearful that no one would listen…but today kids are more likely to tell a parent, a teacher or a friend.”

Dr. Carr adds “there’s a growing awareness that children are smart – children know if something feels wrong – and I think there’s a belief today that if a child reports something, it’s not all in their head, it’s not that they’re confused – children increasingly are being taught if someone touches you in a private place you need to tell someone – I think they have more open lines of communication perhaps with parents and teachers than in the past.”

She also says this type of crime may be slightly more common now than in prior years.

“There might have been people that have been harboring these feelings of sexual attraction to a child in the past but they didn’t know how to act on them” she says, “but today with the internet, people who are pedophiles are handed kind of a “cookbook” about how to go about targeting a child, how to videotape – so I think people can learn how to put these latent feelings into action.”

Dr. Carr also says even though these stories are horrible, “by the media shining a light on them, it might make children who have been silent about this abuse feel that they can come forward and that they’ll be believed.”

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