The holiday season is supposed to be a joyous time of year, but parents are being warned about a looming threat of sexual abuse that their kids could face.

The threat is from people they know and trust.

Joanna Rubinstein, the CEO of the World Childhood Foundation, said at this time of year there are many gatherings with family and friends and there is more of an opportunity for sexual abuse. Studies show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused. In 90% of cases, they are abused by someone they knew.

“They’re not at school. They are in what we consider a safe environment, family, but the reality is, the facts show that not all the families are safe," Rubinstein said, adding that researchers are beginning to understand that child sexual abuse is under-reported.

She noted it is not clear why people abuse children they may love, but in many cases the adults had been abused when they were younger.

Rubinstein said parents need to understand that “this is a common problem, and make sure that children are not put at risk, and children are also aware of the fact that they should be speaking if there is something they are uncomfortable with.”

She suggested parents need to sit down with their kids and remind them “that private parts are theirs and they shouldn’t be touched by anybody."

Enter your number to get the New Jersey 101.5 app

She said youngsters may be hesitant to speak up because “they’re very often threatened by adults, don’t tell anybody because they wouldn’t believe you, or if you tell them they will put me in jail.”

She pointed out the abuser may be a person the child actually trusts and loves, so they don’t want that person to be punished.

She said there are almost always signs that some kind of abuse may be taking place.

“Whenever the child is behaving in a way that’s not normal, or doesn’t want to meet the person, we should be asking them the question why and trying to understand.”

She stressed parents need to work on “making it a safe conversation where the child is not being judged but can disclose and can tell everything they want to tell.”

Also on New Jersey 101.5:

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com