Sexual abuse of teenagers a 'very large problem'

Published: Nov. 1, 2011 at 11:50 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2011 at 5:14 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Innocence can be lost in a blink of an eye.

Libby Ralston says she's seen it all at The Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center. Last year, Ralston says just under 1200 kids and their families came through the front doors of the center that were sexually abused.

Ralston says the numbers have gradually risen over the 20 years she's worked at the center but they're nowhere close to the actual amount of children who are sexually abused in Charleston, especially teenagers.

"Adolescents tend to be more reluctant to tell," says Ralston. "Especially boys."

Over the weekend, three teens found the courage to speak out against 32-year-old Louis Reville, a former principal at the Coastal Christian Preparatory School in Mt. Pleasant, who admitted to sexually abusing the teens in court documents Saturday.

"Perpetrators are masters at manipulation," says Jolie Logan, Chief Operating Officer at Darkness to Light.

The group works under the mission to prevent child sexual abuse in the Lowcountry and she says its not rare to see teenagers in these situations.

"This grooming process could have taken years to get them to that point," says Logan. "In most situations, it's something that's happened over a long period of time. Perpetrators are fabulous at breaking down a child's instincts so some of those natural things that are happening to a 12, 13, 14-year-old... they can easily take advantage of that."

Logan says one of the best ways for parents to prevent their kids from falling victim to sexual abuse is communication.

"One of the things parents can do is talk to their child and help them understand what's happening to their bodies," she say. "Helping them understand what the boundaries are for what's OK and what's not OK is very important."

Ralston, who operates the treatment side of child abuse just a few miles down the road, says no matter the age or situation seeking help is important.

"The bad news is kids get abused," says Ralston. "The good news is that we have great resources in our community to help those children and those families work through what's happened to them and help them heal."

Members from Darkness to Light and the Lowcountry Children's Center will speak to parents of students at Coastal Christian Prep Tuesday night, giving them guidance and help in dealing with the sexual abuse of children and teens.

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