Sexual abuse victim speaks out

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX -- In just six months, 425 children were sexually abused in Maricopa County. The numbers statewide are closer to 700.

All of the stories are heartbreaking. One of the most recent high-profile cases involved Susan Brock, who is now serving 13 years in prison for pursuing an 11-year-old boy and eventually molesting him.

And then there was the case that rocked Brophy College Preparatory. A longtime teacher, Dan Whitehead, lost his job following allegations he made sexual advances toward two students.

"When you're little or a teenager, you don't want your face out there that this happened to you," Joy Weiss said.

Weiss should know. She was about 10 years old when one of her relatives sexually abused her.

"I didn't want to tell my parents," she said. "I didn't want anger or the family to have any issues."

Experts say the majority of sexually abused children know their offender. And when the offender is a relative, it can be especially difficult for the child to come forward.

"When I had to go to my parents and actually say this is what happened, absolutely, and it was not fear against myself but 'oh my goodness, what is this going to do to my family?'" Weiss explained.

Studies show one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.

"Interesting, only one in 10 will ever come forward and disclose the abuse," said Marcia Stanton with Phoenix Children's Hospital. "Many children don't have the words for it, they don't know how to explain, they may just know that something has happened and it makes them very anxious and uncomfortable."

As a child sexual abuse specialist, Stanton recommends, "Any change in behavior is really a red flag to sit down and look a little more closely."

Stanton advises parents, coaches, teachers and anyone around children to turn to books to help kids find the words to start the conversation. And she believes when people like Weiss go public, it helps erase the shame associated with sexual abuse.

"When they see that she can be open about it, then they feel it's OK to come forward, tell their story and get help, and that's what it takes to really better protect kids," Stanton said.

"Letting people know that there are more of us out there, that it's OK to talk about it, it's freeing to know you're not the only one," Weiss said.

Stanton recommends the following books to help kids talk about abuse:

"My Body Belongs to Me" by Jill Starishevsky

"Those are My Private Parts" by Diane Hansen

"A Terrible Thing Happened" by Margaret Holmes

"Your Body Belongs to You" by Cornelia Maude Spelman

"Please Tell" by Jessie Ottenweller

"I Said No" by Kimberly King