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Child Advocate Disscusses PG County Child Abuse Case

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By Elliott Francis

Scott Smallwood, the 27-year-old Prince George's County school bus driver accused of child pornography is scheduled to appear in court for a detention hearing Wednesday. The case raises questions about how to detect an abuse problem.

The alleged abuse of the 7-year-old boy might have continued unnoticed if it weren't for a memory card found in a convenience store by a customer. Police say it contains video of Smallwood's encounter with the boy.

Michelle Booth Cole is the Executive director of Safe Shores, a child advocacy center in the district. Cole says it's not unusual for such a level of abuse to go undetected, since most children wont tell.

"Only 13 percent of children actually tell when they're sexually abused. Either they don't feel safe to tell. The perpetrator tells them not to tell. Most often the perpetrator in not a stranger. There's relationship," says Cole.

Cole insists it's ultimately the responsibility of the parent to spot potential problems and help the child avoid them. She also stresses that children should not be put in one adult, one child situations without supervision, and above all, talk to your child.

"Parents need to have ongoing dialogue with their children, so that everyday you're doing a check-in. We really need to be listening to our children," she says.

Cole says statistics show 1 out of 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they're 18.

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