TULSA, Okla. — A Tulsa area gymnastics coach is charged with three counts of lewd molestation after being accused of inappropriately touching underage girls.
Incidents like this are often a reminder to talk to your children, but it's not an easy conversation to have.
Maura Guten, president and CEO of the Child Abuse Network, said it’s important kids know they have a trusted adult, so they feel comfortable talking to someone if something does happen.
Guten said parents should discuss with their child what’s okay for somebody to do or not do, discuss consent and what a child should do if they are abused in any way. She said if your child does come forward, don’t interrogate them.
“As a parent, supporting the child, making sure they know they’re safe and really taking efforts to ensure that they are safe," Guten said.
There are signs of abuse to look out for beyond the physical ones such as bruises. Guten said there are behavioral and emotional signs such as being fearful of an adult or a decrease in school performance. She said boys tend to act out while girls will get quiet.
“Sleeping more than usual or not being able to sleep, having really bad dreams, crying a lot," she said.
Guten said to make sure you know the safety protocols of where your child is going, if it’s somewhere like a gym or a daycare, and be aware of who they’re spending time with.
“These predators that we worry about, they’re not how we think they might look," Guten said. "They’re not the boogeyman. They’re not the person next door. They’re the people that we really trust. And they don’t just groom children, they groom parents as well. They really get parents to trust them because you’re the access to the child.”
And most of all, believe them when they trust you with this information.
“Kids don’t just imagine these things," Guten said. "You can’t imagine something that’s never happened to you. So, believe them when they tell you.”
Guten said if you suspect some sort of abuse is going on always report it.
The Oklahoma reporting hotline is 800-522-3511. The national hotline is 800-4ACHILD 800-422-4453.