Child sex abuse seminar brings professionals to Dothan

(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - Nearly 100 professionals from various fields attended a child sex abuse training seminar at Flowers Hospital in Dothan Friday. The event, hosted by the Southeast Child Advocacy Group, focused on interfamilial child abuse cases; cases where the child knows the person, like a family member.

According to the child advocacy group 96 percent of child abuse cases reported are instances where the child knows the person.

"Most of these kids know these people. They have a relationship with them and they know and trust them. It's very rare to have somebody abuse them they don't know," said Sherryl Walker, Executive Director of the Child Advocacy Center.

Walker said last year the center got 444 cases and this year they're expecting more, so training like this is important.

"We're trying to train the general population of people who handle these cases," she said.

Attendees included law enforcement officials, district attorneys, social workers, nurses, and juvenile probation officers from across the state. An investigator from Henry County, who attended the session, said it was helpful because they are seeing an increasing trend in cases reported.

The sheriff's department got 20 interfamilial child sex abuse cases this year - that's about 75 percent of their investigation case load according to Investigator Keith Cauthen with the Henry County Sheriff's office.

Cauthen said that number is up from last year and he attributes that to what appears to be an increase to changing times.

"I feel it's up, but I also think it's up because of social media," Cauthen said.

The event was hosted by Cynthia King, a clinical social worker, who said it seems like numbers are up, but really national numbers are down.

"Sexual abuse nationally is actually on the decline. I think when it happens in a community it brings to the surface again an issue that most people feel very uncomfortable talking about," King said.

Cauthen said in the cases that are coming in, the training will help the sheriff's department understand how to approach the case from the both sides.

"This training gives us both sides. We understand what some of the perpetrators are thinking when they commit crimes against children and some of the thoughts the children are having," said Cauthen.

The training was paid for by a gr ant from the Children's Justice Task Force.

If you or someone you know has more questions about child sex abuse cases, contact the Southeast Advocacy Center at 334-671-1179 or visit their website.

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