Child sex abuse victims show signs

The recent abduction and molestation of a Fernley girl by a convicted sex offender brought close to home cases that seem only to happen elsewhere.

On July 22, Fernando Aguero, 47, an unregistered sex offender from California allegedly abducted his roommate's 8-year-old daughter to Mexico. The girl and Aguero were found July 29 in a homeless shelter. Aguero is currently being held in Mexico on charges of kidnapping and sexual assault. He allegedly told investigators he began molesting the girl four months ago. The girl's mother said she didn't know of Aguero's past and her daughter didn't indicate anything was wrong and denied there was a problem when asked.

Claranna Petri, family intervention specialist with the Children's Advocacy Center in Clark County, said children who are sexually abused sometimes show signs through behavioral changes even before they tell someone.

"Withdrawing from friends, doing poorly in school, being real secretive. They might have problems sleeping at night, emotional mood swings, crying, or they don't want to be around a particular person or (committing) self injury, these are things to look for and take notice of," she said.

Petri said children often don't report an assault because they feel responsible.

"The people who prey on kids a lot of times are very skilled at what they do. They make it seem like it was the child's fault," she said. "And there's a lot of guilt too, when kids eventually disclose, because they know that the disclosure could affect the family."

She said a parent's role is to believe and support the child.

Once there is a disclosure of molestation, said Les Gruner, clinical program manager of the Northern Nevada Child and Adolescent Services, a parent's reaction is vital to their child's mental health and a possible legal case.

"First you should report it to child protective services. Try to remain calm, to reassure the child that it's not their fault. Parents also need to be careful not to ask the child a lot of questions and to allow the professionals to deal with that. They need to ask enough questions and get enough information so they can report it, but I don't think sitting there drilling the child for information is helpful," he said.

Gruner said therapy for child victims of sexual assault is imperative.

"It's important then for the child to start getting some help, to start addressing the whole emotional part behind all of that," he said.

Northern Nevada Child and Adolescent Services is a branch of the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services.

"I would recommend, that a child get some type of counseling even if they're not showing a lot of signs, just for safety factors," said Petri. "With sex abuse there's so many messages that are distorted. Kids get the sense that if they are abused it was their fault the abuse happened."

n Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.

Tips for Parents

• Discuss children's rights: the right not to be touched in ways a child feels are uncomfortable, the right to say no and the right to get help.

• Let your children know that you believe in their ability to stay safe and that you will always be there to help.

• Answer children's questions about nightmares, television programs and real-life tragedies.

• Practice yelling for help with your children on a regular basis.

• Encourage children to help other children.

• Discuss "good" and "bad" secrets and how to tell the difference.

• Tell your children about bribes: what they are and what they can seek to accomplish.

- Source: Nevada Coalition Against Sexual Violence


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