Newswise — STRATFORD, NJ – The unfolding news involving allegations at Penn State University underscores the fact that child sexual abuse affects all segments of society and is one of the most underreported crimes in the country. Dr. Martin Finkel and Dr. Esther Deblinger, co-directors and co-founders of the CARES (Child Abuse, Research and Education Services) Institute at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine, are available to discuss child sexual abuse, the myth of “stranger danger” and what parents and caregivers can do to help protect children from becoming victims of this crime.
“All children are vulnerable,” Finkel said. “About one in five will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18, and about 40 percent of these cases involve child victims who are younger than six years old. However, most children who are sexually abused do not experience assault. Because most perpetrators desire to repeat the activities over time, they don’t intend to physically injure their victims.”
“Focusing on ‘stranger danger’ obscures the fact that 85 percent of the child sexual abuse is perpetrated by relatives, or by individuals who are known - but not related - to the child,” Deblinger added. “It’s important to teach children, beginning at age three, about personal space and privacy – okay and not-okay touching – and continue these discussions throughout adolescence. While educating children is not the only step we need to take to stop sexual abuse, it does encourage some children to disclose abuse despite the threats and fears that often keep children suffering in silence.”
Children also need to know that they can tell an adult about what has happened. “It takes an incredible amount of courage for a child to come forward,” Finkel said. “Abusers rely on trust and secrecy, but what the child has to say is the best and most available evidence in child sexual abuse cases.”
Martin A. Finkel, DO, FAAP, is a pioneer in the medical evaluation and treatment of child sexual abuse. He is the author of the first scientific paper published in the medical literature on the healing and interpretation of acute genital or anal trauma. He has led the way in the use of videocolposcopy equipment for the assessment and documentation of injuries residual to sexual abuse. He has lectured extensively throughout the world and is the author of numerous articles, book chapters and a textbook on the medical evaluation of the sexually abused child.
Esther Deblinger, PhD, is an internationally-recognized expert in trauma therapies for children. Working with colleagues at CARES and other institutions, she has developed trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT), a scientifically-supported treatment approach for children who have experienced sexual abuse, violence or disasters. TF-CBT has been employed successfully by mental health professionals working with children throughout the United States and in several countries around the world.
Journalists wishing to interview Martin Finkel, DO, or Esther Deblinger, PhD, should contact Jerry Carey, UMDNJ News Service, at (856) 566-6171.
The CARES Institute provides an array of medical and mental health services developed to meet the diagnostic and therapeutic needs of children through an individualized plan for the specific circumstances of each child and family. The CARES Institute is a nationally recognized model of excellence in healing children and families who have experienced abuse, neglect and violence.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 6,000 students on five campuses attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and New Jersey’s only school of public health. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, which provides a continuum of healthcare services with multiple locations throughout the state.