Experts: Children need to ‘see something, say something’ in suspected sex crime cases

Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2019 @ 6:57 PM

Expert talks about suspected sex crimes involving children

Children advocacy experts say there are ways for parents to help children learn and understand when an adult has crossed the line.

In light of the recent case where a local teacher committed sex crimes against 28 first grade girls, those experts say many of them didn’t even realize they were being abused.

Austin Hopkins is accused of the alleged sexual abuse that happened while he was working as a physical education teacher at Clearcreek Elementary School.

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>> RELATED: Springboro Schools speak out after former PE teacher indicted on sex crimes

Experts at the Child Advocacy Center in Warren County stress the importance of normalizing conversations about safety with your children.

“When you have something like this within your family, it turns everything upside down,” said Child Advocacy Center manager Amy Fornshell. “There are a lot of people that have gone some through type of sexual abuse and trauma who don’t report it.”

The Springboro School District says it first learned of the allegations when a parent reported concerns to the principal.

“Mr. Hopkins was removed from the building within minutes,” said Springboro Schools communications coordinator Scott Marshall.

>> RELATED: Former Springboro PE teacher accused of sex charges involving 28 female students

The former gym teacher was put on paid administration leave immediately, but prosecutors say three months of video prior to that shows him sexually abusing girl after girl during class.

One mother said her daughter was one of Hopkins’ alleged victims.

“It’s even more sickening and gut wrenching and horrible to know that it’s not just you.”

Fornshell said she doesn’t even think the girls knew they were being abused, and that’s why it’s important to have conversations about safety with your children.

“Kids don’t always know what’s actually happening,” she said. “Being able to identify that no one should touch them in those private areas where their bikini or bathing suit covers.”

>> RELATED: Springboro Schools sends letter to parents after former PE teacher indicted for sex crimes

Fornshell also says you need to make this topic a normal part of talks and teach them the importance of speaking up when something’s wrong.

“If you’re having that consistent conversation then it’s going to be a very natural conversation,” she said. “Being able to identify to a child that no matter what anybody says that is not a secret that you keep.”