Child sex abuse prevention topic at luncheon

STEUBENVILLLE – Dr. Stephen Mascio, who performs examinations of children suspected of being sexually abused, said the best intervention to stopping child sex abuse is prevention at an early age, including educating children on what is considered appropriate contact.

The Jefferson County Job and Family Services, Children Services Division, hosted the annual Child Abuse Prevention Luncheon on Thursday at the YWCA.

Mascio has been a physician working with A Caring Place Child Advocacy Center , which investigates reports of child sexual abuse, since its opening.

Mascio is part of the multidisciplinary team that works investigating child sexual abuse. The team also includes police, children services workers and the prosecutor’s office.

Mascio said he performs the examinations at the child advocacy center because he said the last thing a child who has been sexually abused needs is to go to a hospital emergency room.

“We do it in an environment where the child and parents feel safe,” he said.

“No child is immune to becoming abused,” Mascio said, adding girls and special needs children are most at risk. He said children in low-income households with alcoholism and drug abuse also are at risk to being sexually abused.

He said the majority of the perpetrators are family members or acquaintances, such as the boyfriend of the mother.

Mascio said child victims of sexual abuse face higher risks of depression, substance abuse and eating and personality disorders. He said there is some evidence the brain chemistry can actually change as a result of sexual abuse.

Mascio said he wants to be able to go into schools to talk to younger children about sexual abuse. But he said such talks can be tricky because children can become confused about what constitutes appropriate contact.

County Job and Family Services, Children Services Division, received more than 1,000 calls about suspected child abuse in 2012, with about 28 percent being considered substantiated. Children services officials reported there has been an increase in the number of children born to mothers with drug dependency.

Elizabeth Ferron, county Job and Family Services director, said without community support, the jobs of social workers would be much more difficult.

Ferron said it is a privilege working with such a professional and dedicated group of social workers.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.