On Tuesday Kent W. Edwards was charged with 10 counts of sexual assault/battery with a victim under 10 years of age and 5 counts of lewd lascivious behavior with a victim less than 16 years of age in Santa Rosa County. He was extradited from West Virginia State Police and arrived in Santa Rosa County on Tuesday. Edwards is alleged to have committed the crimes while he was living in Santa Rosa County in 2008.
According to reports, Edwards had a relationship and knew the family of his victim. He spent time and was active with family routine. He told the victim to "keep our secret," or to "remember our secret." Reports say he told his victim he "could get in trouble and go to jail" for his actions. The victim stated she didn't want to upset the family and didn't want Edwards to get into trouble.
According to Bonnie Livingston, facility coordinator for Santa Rosa Kid's House (SRKH), this type of story is all too common. She says it's vitally important for parents to talk with their children ahead of time about possible sexual predators and to always tell a "safe keeper" who is someone close to them they can trust if it ever happens. It's also important, says Livingston, for a child to know someone touching them beyond their personal boundaries is never their fault.
"Let them know if an adult puts them in that situation," she says, "to always tell a person they know they can trust."
Livingston says sexual predators are usually someone who is close to the family. She says children need to know about possible manipulation tactics, grooming tactics, which is a way to prepare them to make them think sexual abuse is how to show love, and to be conscious of crossing their boundaries.
"The best prevention of child abuse is to be educated," says Livingston. "Learning how to recognize the symptoms of child abuse is very important for parents and guardians."
Santa Rosa County Deputy Rich Aloy says to be aware of what your children do everyday and be a part of what they do. "Listen to everyday chit chat and make sure the chit chat stays consistent. There is a fine line between parent and friend, but it's our job as parents to ride that line," he says. Aloy says he's seen too many of these types of cases and all of them break your heart.
Livingston says treatment for a child who's been sexually abused at the SRKH is specialized. She says if abused children do not receive treatment, they're more likely to be abused again and become an abuser in the future. She says current statistics are before the age of 18, one in four girls will be sexually abused; one in six for boys.
She says in 2012 of the 185 child abuse cases investigated by Santa Rosa county Sheriff's Office, Gulf Breeze Police Department and Milton Police Department, 38% of those cases were sexual abuse.
Sexual Abuse Signs: