The Thing No One Wants to Talk About & No Parent Wants to Think About

Originally posted at http://www.rrstar.com/article/20150429/NEWS/150429360.

Man found guilty of sexual abuse in Rockford

ROCKFORD — A New York man was found guilty Wednesday in Winnebago County Court of three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in front of Judge John Truitt.

Peter Gakuba, 45, was charged with sexually abusing a victim under the age of 17.

In November 2006, Illinois State Police received a tip regarding the whereabouts of a missing teenager seen at a Rockford hotel. Gakuba is from the state of New York but at the time, he was staying at the Rockford hotel.

Gakuba is scheduled to appear in court on May 20th in front of Judge Truitt in Courtroom D at the Winnebago County Justice Center.

Aggravated criminal sexual abuse is a class 2 felony punishable by three to seven years in prison and two years of mandatory supervised release.

Chris Green: 815-987-1241; cgreen@rrstar.com; @chrisfgreen

This is terrible; terrible because it happened and terrible that it happened right here in our locale. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon. It is the thing of nightmares for parents, guardians, and caregivers. To top it all off, it is extremely disconcerting to talk to children about. How do we teach them the difference between safe, healthy touch and troubling, unwelcome advances? How do we teach them that hugs and hand-holding with known, protective adults is okay and affection that becomes sexual is not?

To keep them safe, we have to talk about these issues. We have to be aware of them and able to communicate how to set boundaries, have uncomfortable conversations about private body parts with their trusted adults, and how to effectively protect themselves when parents can’t be around.

Before we talk about the tools of ‘how’ let’s get real about the danger. The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault links to a study which states that-

“One in three girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.[1]

Over a third of all sexual assaults involved a victim who was under the age of 12.[2]

An estimated 906,000 children were victims of maltreatment in the United States in 2003.  10% of the children were found to be victims of sexual abuse.[3]

Of the 22.3 million adolescents in the United States today, 1.8 million have been victims of serious sexual assault.[4]

Parents for Megan’s Law supports these statistics and clarifies when it says, “93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker, 34.2% of attackers were family members and 58.7% were acquaintances and only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.”

If you’re wondering who Megan was to inspire Megan’s Law, her story goes like this. Megan Kanka was a seven year old New Jersey girl in 1994. Her parents allowed her to ride her bike outside their house on the street they lived on. They found her empty bike in their front yard one day and immediately began to search for their daughter. The next day they found her body. Their neighbor, a twice convicted sex offender, Jesse Timmendequas, was later arrested for Megan’s murder.

After their daughter’s murder Megan’s parents became voices for change. They stated that if they had known that Mr. Temmendequas was a sexual predator they could have better protected Megan. It is because of them that the public has access to a list of sex offenders.

Despite all this, it can still be hard to bring such an unwieldy subject up with your own minor children. If you need tools to help you there are books that exist. You can find one, titled The Right Touch: A Read-Aloud Story to Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse, here. There’s another one, titled Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept, which you can find here. This second book helps to give children the vocabulary to tell you when someone is making them feel unsafe or is acting inappropriately.

This website also gives a list of discussion questions based on your child’s age that can help you get the conversation started. The format is meant to “focus on safety, rather than on sexuality.” It also gives prompts that can help you steer the conversation to talk about all painful feelings such as fighting/hitting, getting a shot by the doctor, and having tummy aches. It can help a child distinguish was is painful but necessary (like a shot) between what is inappropriate and unsafe.

To check the surrounding area near your home address for offenders visit www.familywatchdog.us.

[1] Russell, Diana E.H. 1988. The Incidence and Prevalence of Intrafamilial and Extrafamilial Sexual Abuse of Female Children. In Handbook on Sexual Abuse of Children, ed., Lenore E.A. Walker.  Springer Publishing Co.

[2] Bureau of Justice Statistics. U.S. Department of Justice. 2000. Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics,.

[3] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Children’s Bureau. Child Maltreatment 1997: Reports from the States to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. Washington, D.C.: 1999.

[4] Kilpatrick, Dean, and Benjamin Saunders.  The Prevalence and Consequences of Child Victimization: Summary of a Research Study by Dean Kilpatrick, Ph.D. and Benjamin Saunders, Ph.D. 1997. U.S. Department of Justice. National Institute of Justice. Washington, D.C.

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