HONOLULU (KHON2) — Child sexual abuse is a topic many prefer not to talk about. But the disturbing frequency with which it happens makes it hard to ignore.

According to statistics, one in nine girls and one in 53 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.

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Special agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Honolulu John Tobon has been investigating child sex crimes for over a decade.

“Unfortunately sexual exploitation of children is more prevalent than we would like it to be,” said Tobon.

Tobon said they don’t really know how many kids are abused because many cases go unreported.

But he added that the link between social media use and sexual exploitation is undeniable.

“It’s becoming more and more common as children younger and younger are interacting with unknown individuals and making themselves vulnerable on social media,” said Tobon.

But Tobon said predators aren’t only surfing the web for their victims.

“We have seen a number of predators that have been in positions of authority, coaches or individuals that have something to do with these young people,” explained Tobon.

According to statistics, 90% of victims know their abuser.

“It really is access to these potential victims and a trust that is developed between the victims and the individual that is now really looking to harm them,” Tobon said.

His advice to parents: make sure kids’ social media accounts are set to private.

“That immediately reduces the possibility or the opportunity for a child to be targeted,” Tobon explained. “But also be aware of some of the interactions that they have with individuals in positions of authority.”

Parents should also look out for changes in their child’s behavior that could mean they’re being sexually abused or exploited:

  • If your child shows signs of discomfort or fear around a family member, friend or authority figure.
  • There is a decline in their performance at school.
  • They are withdrawing from friends or there are changes in socialization.
  • For younger kids, avoiding a person they used to like or a specific room in the house.
  • If they exhibit over-sexualized behavior, language or knowledge not appropriate for the child’s age.

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Click on this link to find out more about child sexual abuse and services available for victims of sexual abuse