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Teach your spouse, children, friends and co-workers to recognize the warning signs of child sexual abuse or of an adult’s unhealthy interest in children. Like yellow, flashing lights that warn of danger on the road ahead, these warning signs tell us to slow down, pay attention and beware.

Teach your children about inappropriate touching and to be wary of “tricky” adults who play games and keep secrets. Tell them when and how to say no to adults who act or speak inappropriately.

Second, trust.

Trust your gut and teach your children to trust theirs. I always have told my own children that if they feel the hair on the back of their neck beginning to stand or sense danger in the pit of their stomach, it is time to flee.

If a person or situation, such as being alone with another adult or hugging a stranger, makes your child feel uncomfortable, he needs to listen to that gut feeling and get out of harm’s way. Promise your children that you always will take their safety concerns, feelings and fears seriously — in short, that you trust them.

Third, take action.

A child who perceives an uncomfortable or unsafe circumstance needs to take action: Tell a trusted adult, send a text message, make a call to you or another designated person, and run. Screaming also can be a life saver!

And as for adults who observe troubling signs — we also must learn to face the situation head-on rather than turning a timid or blind eye, like some of the adults in Mr. Sandusky’s case seemed to do. Make a vow now that should you ever suspect that a child is at risk, you will take action by asking questions, paying attention to details and patterns, intervening when danger is imminent and reporting any abuse allegations immediately.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at