SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – On the heels of a former western Massachusetts track coach’s guilty plea to multiple counts of child sexual abuse, many parents are worried about the variety of dangers lurking online and in real life.
Child sexual abuse and assault is far more prevalent than most people realize. The CEO of the YWCA says that it’s important for parents to start conversations now with their children so that they too can recognize the signs and prevent it from happening.
Child sexual abuse is perpetrated by a wide range of individuals with diverse motivations. Abusers can be neighbors, coaches, teachers, or even family members.
There are a variety of steps and tactic that groomers take to gain trust and access to a child, from assessing a child’s vulnerabilities to offering special attention, to ultimately isolate their victims.
“The first stage is targeting and it’s when the groomer specifically targets a particular child. And they look for somebody who is vulnerable,” said YWCA of western Massachusetts CEO Elizabeth Dineen.
Dineen added abusers typically target preteens, “It’s an age where people are desperate to belong to a particular group and really are looking externally for people to validate them and to make them feel accepted.”
It’s important for parents to be keyed in to their child. Parents and caregivers should have open conversations about things such as sex and healthy relationships so a child can go to them without the fear of criticism or shame.
The YWCA has a wide range of support and services available for people who have experienced or have a child who has experienced this form of abuse.
Melissa Torres is a reporter who has been a part of the 22News team since 2021. Follow Melissa on X @melissatorrestv and view her bio to see more of her work.