In the wake of the Brooke Bennett tragedy, child victim advocates are talking about what parents and the community can do to keep kids safe; from spotting signs of abuse, to spotting an abuser.
Last year there were 322 substantiated cases of child sex abuse in Vermont. While that number is down 60 percent from 15 years ago, experts say with more information and a focus on prevention, Vermont's kids can be even safer.
"I want to take this opportunity to set aside debate about changing our laws and bring attention to what we can do to empower parents and communities with the tools they need to prevent crimes and keep the children of Vermont safe," said Gov. Jim Douglas, R-Vermont.
Governor Douglas says since the Brooke Bennett tragedy, many Vermonters have asked him what they can do to help prevent and spot abuse. So he called together experts to talk about this difficult topic.
"Prevention is the key to keeping our kids safe," said Linda Johnson of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.
Child advocates say 92 percent of sex abuse is from someone the child knows; either a family member or friend. And it typically starts with grooming, where the abuser works their way into the child and family's life by offering to pick them up after school, taking them to sporting events, or buying them gifts.
"All the while decreasing the child and the family's sensitivity to increased affection, sexual jokes, to horse play, to moving closer and closer to sexual abuse," explained Johnson.
Experts say almost half of abusers are kids, and parents and caregivers should always have their kids keep the door open when they play. And look for trouble signs-- like too much tickling.
"If you see your child playing with an adult or another child and there's something about that play that makes you feel uncomfortable, believe yourself," advised Johnson.
And they say it's important to teach children the appropriate names for body parts so they know how to tell what hurts and where.
"This is very, very important," said Johnson. "Offenders tell us this. Show me a child who knows nothing about her body -- and I'll show you my next victim."
The state is in the process of overhauling how it deals with child abuse and neglect cases. Officials say by September 1 they will have a new toll-free number set up so there is one centralized place for people to report suspected abuse.
As for the 60 percent drop in the number of child abuse cases in the last 15 years, officials credit the arrest and prosecution of more sex offenders and they also say prevention programs have been key in bringing that number down.
Tuesday, June 18 2013 11:55 PM EDT2013-06-19 03:55:09 GMT
An award winning journalist from Vermont has died.Michael Hastings was killed early Tuesday morning in a car accident in Los Angeles.Hastings was best known for his Rolling Stones article on General StanleyMore >>
Michael Hastings was killed early Tuesday morning in a car accident in Los Angeles.More >>
Tuesday, June 18 2013 11:54 PM EDT2013-06-19 03:54:26 GMT
Bennington Rural Fire Station was packed with people and support for the 15 members recently suspended over their part in an annual stunt. "Do you realize these are the real heroes of America?" askedMore >>
Bennington Rural Fire Station was packed with people and support for the 15 members recently suspended over their part in an annual stunt.More >>
Tuesday, June 18 2013 11:53 PM EDT2013-06-19 03:53:55 GMT
Glen Goodall served in the South Pacific during World War II, now the Williamstown vet is in Washington D.C. for two very special honors.Tuesday marked the 94-year-old's first trip to the nation's capitalMore >>
Glen Goodall served in the South Pacific during World War II, now the Williamstown vet is in Washington DC for two very special honors.More >>
Tuesday, June 18 2013 7:41 PM EDT2013-06-18 23:41:56 GMT
Former Bennington Rural Fire Department chief Joseph Hayes pleaded not guilty Monday to embezzlement charges stemming from a department-sponsored raffle when he was chief. Participants told police theyMore >>
A former chief at the Bennington Rural Fire Department faces embezzlement charges and 16 volunteers are in hot water over another incident. As allegations of misconduct stack up, some residents are worried about their safety.More >>
Tuesday, June 18 2013 7:54 PM EDT2013-06-18 23:54:27 GMT
Court documents indicate New York's Chinese mafia may be involved in prostitution at a Chittenden County spa. Tuesday morning, landlord Thomas Booska pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge. A tenantMore >>
A landlord has denied charges related to prostitution at an alleged sex spa in Williston. And court documents indicate New York's Chinese Mafia may be involved in prostitution in Vermont.More >>
Tuesday, June 18 2013 12:13 PM EDT2013-06-18 16:13:18 GMT
A Hopkinton, New York man is behind bars, accused of promoting prostitution. Police say Monday, they searched 60-year-old Dean Lamphere's house and business -- Lamphere's General Trucking and Repair.More >>
A Hopkinton, N.Y., man is behind bars, accused of promoting prostitution.More >>
Tuesday, June 18 2013 10:00 AM EDT2013-06-18 14:00:51 GMT
A New Haven man says he was trying to stop another man from cutting down his neighbor's trees, but police say firing shots wasn't the way to do it. Police say on Sunday, 72-year-old David Milson firedMore >>
A New Haven man says he was trying to stop another man from cutting down his neighbor's trees, but police say firing shots wasn't the way to do it.More >>