Preventing Sexual Abuse By Starting A Conversation With Your Child

By Mariana Dale, Mark Brodie
Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2019 - 6:24pm
Updated: Wednesday, August 28, 2019 - 7:13pm
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Joelle Casteix
Joelle Casteix

KJZZ and The Arizona Republic’s collaborative project “A Position of Trust,” considered nearly 200 allegations of teacher sexual misconduct reported since 2015 and highlighted weaknesses in a system meant to keep kids safe.

We've heard a lot about what does or does not happen when a child is abused by someone they should have been able to trust.

Joelle Casteix joined The Show to offer some advice on how to help your children recognize abuse and what they can do to protect themselves

Casteix is the author of "The Well-Armored Child: A Parent's Guide to Preventing Sexual Abuse."

Interview highlights

These conversations, understandably, can be really, really difficult to have with your kids— How do you even go about starting that conversation?

“If we start talking to our kids, when they're really, really young, about how to protect their bodies and what their bodies are, as far as beautiful, great things ... we can make sure that they don't fall for the tricks that predators try to lay for them.

“What I always tell parents, even when their kids are really, really tiny, is to teach their kids the proper biological names of all their body parts.

“As they get older, you have to be blunt and honest with them and say, ‘Hey, you know what? It is never OK — It is never OK — for an adult to have sex with a teenager.’”

Are there particular signs or other things that parents should be on the lookout for?

“The number one thing that parents can do is look out for signs of what we call predatory grooming and those are the signs that that's what a predator does to trick the kid into thinking that sexual abuse is OK.

“What predators do is they find the easiest target, they're not going to go after the kid who's the hard target —  the kid who has high self-esteem and who is doing great because that kid is going to be be hard to lure. They want to find the easy target.

“What they'll do is they'll use things like flattery, GIFs, they'll charm a kid who's looking for adult attention. They'll give a kid gifts, like prepaid credit cards, cellphones, they'll text a kid a lot. They'll try to get between a kid and a parent.

“They'll spend a lot of alone time with a kid ... that makes makes a child think that they are special in the eyes of this one particular adult and then that allows you to blur body boundaries that allows an adult to blur sexual boundaries, and then allows an adult to make hugs and kisses turn into sexual abuse.”

More tips

As part of “A Position of Trust” The Arizona Republic reported on how social media can open the door to predatory exchanges between adults and kids.

→ SEARCH DATABASE: Teachers Investigated For Sexual Misconduct Since 2015

Parents can monitor their children’s online interaction with the help of a few apps.

Virginia Commonwealth University Professor Charol Shakeshaft has studied educator sexual misconduct since the 1980s and says there are different kinds of predators. 

“Fixated predators,” are only sexually interested in children.

Opportunistic predators have relationships with adults, can be married or have children,  “but if there’s an opportunity to have a sexual interaction with a student, they’ll take that opportunity.”

Shakeshaft says to watch for educators who are overly familiar with students, give them individual gifts and frequently make time to be alone unsupervised with a child.

“It may be nothing, but it’s likely to be something,” Shakeshaft said.

How To Report Child Abuse

The Arizona Child Abuse Hotline 1-888-767-2445 (1-888-SOS-CHILD).

You can also make a non-emergency report online at

How To Report Teacher Unprofessional Conduct

Email the Arizona Department of Education’s Investigative Unit at [email protected].

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