Tips for talking to your teenager about sexual abuse

Posted at 5:56 PM, Jan 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-29 19:56:33-05

SALT LAKE CITY – Talking to your child about sexual abuse can be an uncomfortable conversation for parents, but experts say it’s an important one. Parents in Summit County are currently facing that dilemma with the arrest of a former teacher.

Derek Spitzer, a former music teacher at Ecker Hill Middle School in Park city, was recently accused of paying a 13 year-old student to take part in a fake study. Prosecutors say he sent the boy 500 sexually explicit emails.

“It`s unnerving. Definitely scary,” said Kathy Glass, a parent.

Spitzer is the third Park City district employee charged with a sexual crime in two years, forcing parents to have a conversation with their teenager.

Dr. Doug Goldsmith is a child psychologist at the Children’s Center in Salt Lake City. He said parents need to give teens straight talk, but don’t scare them.

“If we really look at the data, it's happening, but it's not every school, and it's not 5 teachers in every school," Goldsmith said. "It's more important to talk about any adult, and any adult in authority, never has the right to touch you. Never has the right to hug you if you don`t want to be hugged. Never has the right to put their arm around you.”

The key is to get your teen to open up to you. Sometimes, parents don’t ask them specific enough questions that could alert them to a problem.

Questions like: “What's it been like in the locker room? What are kids doing? What are kids saying? Is anybody being mean? Is anybody being bullied? What are you seeing in the hallway?”

Cell phones are no longer just a device, but an extension of a teen’s body part. Dr. Goldsmith encourages parents to set boundaries.

“If a boy you're dating writes to you and says I want to see nude pictures, you need to bring that to us so we can help you: We're not going to embarrass you,” Dr. Goldsmith said.

The most important thing you can do for your child is to give them your time. That’s not always easy, but it gives them peace of mind and helps them navigate questions or concerns they have.