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FBI warns of possible rise in child exploitation cases because of coronavirus closures

April is National Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Month, so a Seattle organization is hoping to use this time to educate families on how to talk to your kids about it.

SEATTLE — The FBI is warning parents and educators about the risks of child exploitation and sexual abuse because of the coronavirus outbreak and closures. 

The agency says children will potentially be online more and it could put them at risk of exploitation or abuse. 

April is also National Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Month, so child advocates are hoping to use this time to educate families.

Seattle's Committee For Children is helping navigate a tough discussion with hot chocolate. The effort is called The Hot Chocolate Talk, and it gives parents a warm and comforting way to talk about sexual abuse prevention. There are talking points for kids of all ages, and some that might not even seem like you're having a talk with your kids at all.

"A really easy way that parents can think about it is that it's just personal safety," said Dr. Tia Kim with Committee for Children. "Think about creating safety rules just like you would about going outside and not talking to strangers or going outside when you're going to ride your bike."

Research shows 1 in 4 girls report sexual abuse by age 18, and that number is 1 in 20 for boys. In 90% of those cases, the child knows their abuser. 

Credit: Committee for Chidlren
1 in 4 girls reports experiencing sexual abuse by age 18, and it's 1 in 20 for boys.

The thought behind the Hot Chocolate Talk is to have conversations that are right for your kids. 

Experts said it's good for parents to think of it as a normal safety talk, and it works for right now because we're all thinking about safety and staying healthy during the coronavirus pandemic. 

With younger children, the conversation might start out by naming body parts in the bathtub and then as kids get older, it becomes more detailed about rules and safety. Kim said it's doesn't have to be complicated. 

"We're physically distancing because we want to keep other people safe and healthy," said Kim. "So it's in that framework we want to have those conversations."

Kim said you can think of the three Rs: recognizing, refusing and reporting. Kim also recommended these conversations continue throughout the child's life. 

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