Sexual abuse prevention expert speaks about how parents can discuss sexual abuse in Alaska

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Childhood sexual abuse is a major public health concern in Alaska according to the Department of Health and Social Services, and victim advocacy groups in Anchorage are opening up dialogue in light of a recent case involving disturbing allegations of sexual abuse.

(KTUU)

Anchorage motivational speaker Donteh Devoe, 40, faces felony charges alleging he had consistent sexual relations with a high school-aged girl. Prevention experts say when these crimes are in the news cycle, it's crucial for parents to discuss them with their kids.

But often times, knowing where to start can be the hardest part.

"How can we have more of these conversations to help prevent these things from happening throughout the state of Alaska?" That’s the number-one question motivating Julie Dale’s work. She’s a prevention specialist with Standing Together Against Rape (STAR), an organization furthering conversation around endemic sexual abuse in Alaska.

Channel 2 asked Dale a series of questions aimed at helping parents have difficult discussions with their kids about things like sexual abuse:

Q: How can parents approach the topic of sexual abuse with their kids?

“If you're not sure how to start it, a great way is to ask them what they've heard: ‘What do you know?’ ‘Tell me how you feel about that?’ And start the conversation from there," Dale said. “If youth are asking you questions and you don't know the answer or you don't know how to approach it, tell them that. Say 'Wow, that was a really big question. I'm not sure how to answer right now, but I'm going to find out for you.’ Utilize your resources. Call STAR."

Q: Sexual abuse of a minor can undermine the trust young ones have in authority figures. What's an important thing for parents to remember in these situations?

"One thing that really keeps this conversation hopeful and going: Even though we're seeing all of these incidents in the news — not just in our state but across the nation — the number of people that protect children far outweigh the number of people that are harming."

Q: More than 9 percent of Alaska high school students have experienced sexual violence according to DHSS -- among the highest sexual abuse rates in the nation. Why is it important for parents to discuss sexual abuse with their kids?

"We (STAR) do talk to youth about how to keep their body safe, and how to identify if some of these unsafe behaviors are happening,” Dale said. “But ultimately, that conversation and the responsibility lies within the adults in our community to help keep our kids safe ... And (they) can be very successful in that role."

STAR is one of many groups furthering the conversation and providing resources for victims of sexual abuse in Alaska. Following is a list of resources for parents, victims, and those looking to join in the dialogue:

American Psychological Association – How to talk to children about difficult news

Standing Together Against Rape (STAR)

Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

Anchorage Alliance for Violence Prevention

The Alaska Medical Library, Teen Health resources

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