ATHENS, Tenn. (WATE) — Experts with the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee spoke about red flags that a minor may be being abused by an adult.
“We have this stereotype that predators look like the creepy man that’s in the alley and that’s not the case,” said Ashley Mills, the education outreach team leader at the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee. “They can look like men, they can look like women, and they can be other teenagers.”
Mills said there are several signs someone may be abusing a child.
“If there is an older person and they are showing you uncomfortable things, like pictures or videos, or they’re using a lot of uncomfortable language and they’re asking you to keep that a secret, that’s definitely a red flag,” said Mills of someone who may find themselves in this situation. “If they try to get you to leave your house and meet them somewhere, that’s also a huge red flag.”
Mills also said a lot of times a groomer will say there is a special bond between them and the victim.
She said the key for victims is to find a trusted adult who will know how to let the victim know what happened is not their fault.
“At the end of the day you just want to keep assuring them that what happened to them was not their fault and will never be their fault,” Mills said.
She also said teens need to be prepared to help their friends through tough situations.
“They’re going to talk to their friends more than they’re going to talk to adults, so if you have a friend who is in this situation, definitely try to utilize those trusted adults,” said Mills. “Go to a counselor, go to a therapist, go to a school resource officer, or even a principal or a teacher, somebody who you know is going to listen to you, hear you, and respect you.”
The Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee is located at 2455 Sutherland Ave. in Knoxville, Building B. The crisis hotline is staffed 24/7 at 865-522-7273.