Clemente: Be proactive to prevent child sexual victimization
Jim Clemente offered advice to an audience at USC Aiken on Thursday night: Parents need to be proactive if they want to prevent their children from being sexually victimized.
“Don't try to instill fear and paranoia in them, but arm them with the information that this stuff happens,” said Clemente, who was the featured speaker during a fundraising dinner that was sponsored by the Child Advocacy Center of Aiken County's 100 Women Initiative.
Clemente is a former supervisory special agent in the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit, and he also worked as a New York City prosecutor. When he was a teenager, Clemente was sexually victimized. Today, he draws on his personal and professional experiences as a consultant and writer for the CBS television show “Criminal Minds.”
During his presentation at USC Aiken, Clement didn't just call on parents to play a role in preventing sexual abuse. He also discussed how they should go about doing that.
One of Clemente's suggestions to parents was they should talk to their youngsters about sex in an age appropriate way.
“Typically, we are very nervous and anxious about teaching our children about sex,” Clemente said. “Unfortunately, that sets them up to be more vulnerable as victims. We can't pretend that by keeping our kids naïve that we are keeping them safe.”
In addition, Clemente recommended that parents make their youngsters aware that “good people can do bad things” because, in many cases, the people who molest children aren't strangers to their victims. They often are youngsters' aunts, uncles, priests, cousins and coaches.
“Control your anxieties and talk to your children in a very calm manner,” Clemente said. “Tell them, 'If somebody is pushing you to do something you know is wrong, let us know. It doesn't matter if it's our best friend in the world. You can come to us and you won't get in trouble. We will still love you.'”
Clemente mentioned convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky as someone who was highly regarded before his darker side became widely known. Sandusky used to be an assistant football coach at Penn State under the late Joe Paterno. Sandusky also was the founder of The Second Mile, a charity that served underprivileged and at-risk youth.
“People knew him (Sandusky) as a good man who was God-fearing, didn't drink and didn't smoke,” Clemente said. “He was in the pool watching the kids, while the parents sat outside relaxing and drinking. The parents loved him and said, 'He's a saint. He's sacrificing his time so we can have a good time and relax. He's helping those kids. He's selfless.'”
Clemente suggested visiting the website www.stopitnow.org to learn more about how to prevent the sexual abuse of children. Some statistics show that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before they reach the age of 18.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.