That's the message Peggy Ford, the executive director of The Children's Place, will impart to parents Wednesday night at a forum at Redcliffe Elementary School on Atomic Road.
"For too long, what we've done is try to educate children, and we've tried to have children ... protect themselves from child sexual abuse," Ms. Ford said. "But we don't make children protect themselves from the highway or even sitting in a vehicle. We put them in car seats, because we know the things that can protect them."
The forum will focus on steps parents can take to prevent sexual abuse of their children, and one of the first steps is awareness.
"The first step is believing that child sexual abuse happens and that it is something we have to protect children from," she said. "A lot of people think that it's other people that have to worry about that, that it's not their family, it's not their children."
Ms. Ford said one in four girls and one in six boys experience sexual abuse, most often before age 12.
According to a report released last year by the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, Aiken County had the highest molestation rate per capita in South Carolina in 2005 -- 53.3 reports for every 10,000 people, or 193 reported cases of child sexual abuse.
"It is not something that only happens to a few children," Ms. Ford said.
Situations in which an adult is alone with a child should be avoided, she said.
"It's not about whether you think that person is a good person or whether you think the activity is a beneficial activity," she said. Eliminating those situations leaves fewer opportunities for adults who are predators.
"For the most part, child molestation happens in one-child, one-adult situations, and for the most part it happens with trusting adults, adults who have somehow gotten into your life in a trusting capacity," Ms. Ford said.
The forum will begin at 7 p.m. at Redcliffe Elementary School on Atomic Road.
Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.