The recent story of an alleged sexual relationship involving a Destrehan High School student and two female teachers has certainly garnered its share of local and national headlines. And while late-night talk-show hosts have had fun snickering about it, if the encounter is substantiated, it is considered child sex abuse under Louisiana law.

The consequences of child sex abuse are no joke. Indeed, research on the subject is quite sobering. One in 10 children experience sexual abuse before turning 18. Male victims are 70 percent more likely to seek psychological treatment for issues like substance abuse, suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide. Sexually abused girls are three times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders and substance abuse problems as adults. In addition, sexually abused children face higher risks of isolation, unemployment, chronic disease and early death.

There’s a substantial economic toll, as well. The U.S. spends $3.4 billion annually on treating victims of child sexual abuse. In fact, a single substantiated incident costs, on average, more than $14,000.

The way to stop sexual abuse of children is to educate adults on the warning signs and empower them to intervene.

Research shows that one trained adult does a better job of protecting at least 10 children from sexual abuse than an untrained adult. And the cost of that training is just over $10 per person.

I encourage parents and youth-serving organizations like day cares, schools, sports leagues and places of worship to get involved in Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children program. It’s a two-hour workshop that helps adults recognize when others are crossing boundaries that could lead to sexual abuse.

Several Baton Rouge-area organizations offer the program, including YMCA of the Capital Area, the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center, STAR, LouisianaChildren.org and BREC. More information is available online at www.d2l.org/la or by calling 1-800-CHILDREN.

Protecting children from sexual abuse starts with each one of us, and it starts with education. Please learn more about Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana by visiting visit pcal.org.

Amanda Brunson

executive director, Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana

Baton Rouge