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Experts recommend ways to protect children from sexual assault

(WZTV)

Detectives in several parts of the middle Tennessee are investigating separate sex crimes involving underage girls.

Those investigations include the case against accused kidnapper Tad Cummins, a former Maury County teacher, and a Stewart County pastor charged with sexual contact with a minor on Tuesday.

With so many recent cases, FOX 17 spoke with experts about ways to keep your child safe from predators.

They said stranger danger is not the big concern anymore, and the vast majority of cases involve people children see and interact with every day.

“Children are taught to respect people in authority, so they trust them, and that is what I think makes this crime even more heinous,” said Cathy Gurley, Executive Director of “You Have the Power.”

She said children are often targeted by grownups in power and groomed.

“They’re attracted to very vulnerable children, children who may have a self-esteem issue, who may be having some problems in school,” Gurley said.

So what can parent do to make sure their kids don't become victims? Brentwood Pediatrician Dr. Tobi Amosun sees signs of sexual assault with her patients on a monthly basis.

“From what I understand, more than 90 percent of people who are sexually abused as a child are abused by someone who's known to them,” Amosum said. "It may be a neighbor. It may be a teacher, a trusted family member, but usually it's somebody who they know so you have to be really careful.”

Dr. Amosun said to keep tabs on your kid's cell phones because often that's how these predators get close.

She also recommended watching for changes in behavior. If your child seems withdrawn or starts acting out, ask what's going on.

Most importantly, she said you should listen to what your child is telling you.

“If you ever notice your kids don't want to be around a certain person, you should really take that to heart," Amosum said. "Kids will very rarely lie to get in trouble. They lie to get out of trouble so when a kid tells you something believe them the first time.”

Dr. Amosun said while it can be impossible to watch your child all the time, kids who are left unsupervised are often the most vulnerable to predators.

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