Experts, parents believe in early education to safeguard kids from sexual abuse

WASHINGTON DC – For parents in Washington D.C. Monday marked the beginning of a new school year.

It also was sentencing day for Deonte Carraway, 22, who worked as an assistant at a Prince George’s County elementary school from 2014 through 2016.

In January, he confessed to 15 counts in federal court of sexual abuse and pornography charges. The kids in the videos he made were all children who attended the school he worked for.

Prosecutors with the State’s Attorney’s Office have indicated he will also stand trial in district court on several additional charges.

The news is disturbing to parents who were there on the first day of school with their kids at Eaton Elementary School in Northwest but to Nicole Rollins-Lamar, it’s not something unfathomable. That’s why she’s been talking to her children since they were very young about the right kind of relationships they should have with adults.

“I think as early as they can communicate,” said Rollins-Lamar. “So to use real words about their body parts and to teach them what's appropriate, what isn't, from whom, from parents, from family members, teachers, staff, everybody.”

Counselor Candace Wheeler agrees with Rollins-Lamar. Wheeler has been helping sexual abuse victims in the DMV since 2003.

“You have to talk at the child's level,” said Wheeler. She recommends using dolls or puppets to help your children learn the kind of vocabulary that could help them identify problems at daycare, church or in preschool.

Some parents may think that it’s a conversation meant for when their children are older but according to Wheeler that may be too late.

“Some of the girls I work with said their first memory of being touched or fondled started at the age of 1 and a half or 2 years old,” said Wheeler.

According to research that can have a devastating impact adult life. Wheeler points to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study and said early sexual abuse lead to risky behavior in adolescence and, ultimately, an early death.

Wheeler’s group, Restoration 1:99 in Falls Church, offers therapy options for sexual abuse victims and raises awareness about the issue.
Wheeler believes public education has led to more reporting of sexual abuse. She adds that there are also more people (like teachers) who are mandated to report signs of abuse than there ever have been.

“Before there were no avenues to talk about it and get better,” said Wheeler, who said she now sees people in their 60s finally reaching out for help and talking about abuse with counselor for the first time.

Rollins-Lamar never wants her children or their friends to go through anything like that. It’s why she encourages her fellow parents to also keep a close eye on their kids’ behavior and talk to them often about their activities.

“I don't ask about it every day but I am a pretty conscious parent,” said Rollins-Lamar. “I'm constantly watching my children to see if there has been a change in their behaviors… just be aware.”