Recognizing and stopping child abuse

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Another disturbing case of child sex abuse in Springfield has been reported.

Robert Stafford, 41, was arrested and charged with six counts, including statutory sodomy and statutory rape Tuesday.

Experts told us one in ten kids will be sexually abused at least once.

It's difficult to get them to come forward, report their abuser and get the help they need.

We talked to the Executive Director, Linda Saturno, at the Child Advocacy Center for ways you can spot and stop child abuse of any kind.

"It is a sad, sad reality that this happens very frequently," she said.

Even for experts, child abuse is hard to handle.

"We've had a few, particularly bad, cases. When those really, really, bad cases come by, that even shake the foundation of people who do this work, it requires mental health therapists to come in and talk us through. Many times our staff go home in tears," explained Saturno.

Most of the details of the charges against Stafford are too disturbing to report. The nine year old girl he's accused of abusing contracted a sexually transmitted disease because of sexual contact with him.

Her relationship to Stafford is not known.

"Most of the time it's a family member or someone known to the family. Someone who you may never expect to do something like this," said Saturno.

She cannot talk about specific cases due to privacy laws but urges adults to talk to kids about personal boundaries.

"Lots of times until that talk happens with the child they don't know that what is happening is not normal," she explained.

There are warning signs to look out for.

She said, "When a child tells you they don't want to go somewhere and they're worried about it, that's something for you to investigate further. Why don't they want to be with that person? What's going on?"

That's one of the more obvious ways to know something is wrong. Other ways include severe bruising and problems using the bathroom.

Also, changes in mood and behavior are red flags.

Some abuse can be caught ahead of time by looking for the signs of grooming.

"It gradually escalates so it almost normalizes the behavior for the child. At some point it changes into something that the child recognizes as, this doesn't feel good or I feel violated," explained Saturno.

She said that simply observing how kids behave around each other and adults can make a difference.

"We have to really work together as a community to identify, to prevent, to assist families who are in crisis so that children are safe," said Saturno.

Robert Stafford is being held at the Greene County Jail on a $100,000 bond.

No court dates have been scheduled for his case.