MCKINNEY (CBSDFW.COM) - A former McKinney Sunday school teacher remains jailed on child sex assault charges, while a reeling church community continues to search for other victims.
Noel Anderson, 22, told police that he sexually assaulted four children between the ages of two and six years old over the past seven years. Anderson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Lake Forest Drive, told police that he met his victims through church meetings.
"This is certainly a case where we would hope that there are no additional victims of this terrible crime," said McKinney police spokesperson Carla Marion Peritz, "but, as public service, we need to know for sure so we can continue to investigate and get the children help and treatment."
Church leaders released a statement Tuesday saying they are cooperating with police and stand ready to offer support and professional counseling for any victims.
Experts say parents understandably feel betrayed. The next step is to take action.
"Ask the tough questions," says Sylvia Gearing, PhD, Plano based clinical psychologist. "Put up with your own discomfort in asking those questions. It's okay... you have your child's life at stake here."
According to Dr. Gearing, it's important to ask open ended questions. If children are young and struggle to understand 'anxiety'; ask them how they feel physically when a suspected abuser is near. Do they get a sick feeling in their stomach?
"They will tell you. I have never interviewed a child that's been sexually abused who thought it was okay. They just didn't know how to stop it. THey always knew that it was something terribly wrong."
Dr. Gearing says it's important to reassure children that their intuition will be respected. And no one gets a pass.
"No matter who you're with, no matter how close that person is to our family, any behavior where you were made to feel uncomfortable, we will address that immediately because your safety is everything to us."
According to McKinney police, one victim at the church made an outcry. And when they questioned Anderson, they say he admitted to sexually assaulting three more. He is being held on a $100,000 bond. If there are more victims, experts say it is important that they be identified so they can get help.
It is worth noting that if the abuse started seven years ago, Anderson would have been roughly 15 at the time. It is enough to make one wonder, experts say, what turned the young man into a predator.
"Sexual abuse is like throwing a grenade in the middle of somebody's psychological life-- it doesn't go away," says Dr. Gearing. "[It is ] deeply, deeply, hurtful, and transforms the developmental path out of childhood."
The Children's Advocacy Center of Collin County has assembled additional resources for having those difficult conversations that can help protect your children from abusers.
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