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Campaign Targets Prevention of Child Sex Abuse

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It's estimated 41 million Americans are survivors of child sex abuse. The experience can have devastating consequences not just for the victims but for their families too.

Now a new campaign is trying to help parents spot potential problems long before the damage is done.

It's often impossible to see when a child has been sexually molested. There may be no obvious physical signs. But the mental and emotional damage can be enormous.

Susan da Silva/ Mother of child abuse victim: "My daughter when she was 18 killed herself. The abuse that she suffered was very severe and it happened from when she was five till she was seven, and she never recovered from that. I want to stop that from happening to other children."

So Susan da Silva has become a volunteer with the Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute.

Nora Harlow/ Child abuse expert: "The focus of our organization is to save as many children as we can as fast as we can."

Using the book Stop Child Molestation, the organization is reaching out to parents, teachers, psychotherapists, church and community groups.

Their message is simple. By spotting the warning signs early, it's possible to stop people before they begin abusing children.

Whitney Gabriel/ Child abuse expert: "We know that the disorder starts when they are young, when they are teenagers and sometimes even younger."

The warning signs include sexually acting out at home or in school, developing unhealthy sexual interest in younger children, displaying sexually provocative behavior, using sexual language beyond their age group.

Because it's hard to know if this is just natural curiosity and experimentation, or something more serious, they say parents who are worried should consult a sex specific specialist, someone trained in diagnosing and treating the problem.

Whitney Gabriel: "In cases where someone does have a problem there is medication and treatment therapy that is very effective, in fact it's 88% effective."

The key is awareness, awareness of the problem and warning signs, and awareness of the fact that something can be done.

Susan da Silva: "It's really, really tough, because there's not a lot-- you feel pretty helpless. That's why I'm excited by the idea that we can help children not only after the fact, but before it, too, by preventing it from happening."

Susan da Silva says it's too late for her daughter, but not too late to save others from going through what she did.

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