Warning signs when it comes to child sexual abuse

The arrest of a Jacksonville pastor and two other men involved in the church is bringing to light child sexual abuse cases.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The arrest of a Jacksonville pastor and two other men involved in the church is bringing to light child sexual abuse cases.

78-year-old Paul Dyal, pastor of the Jacksonville Assembly of the Body of Christ on Old Kings Road North, was arrested Wednesday night after a coordinated police raid on the church.

68-year-old Jerome Teschendorf and 85-year-old Vernon Williamson were arrested in Oklahoma, also charged with capital sexual battery.

It has many parents concerned about sexual abuse happening to their children, so News4JAX spoke with an FBI counselor about the warning signs to look out for.

The investigation at the Body of Christ Church in North Jacksonville, where the pastor and two men were arrested on sexual battery charges, is eye-opening for many families.

When it comes to something like this, what do parents need to know? What do people need to know about the red flags?

“I think anytime we have children in any sort of danger, there are definitely red flags and warning signs,” said Lisa Miriello, FBI Victim Advocate Specialist. “So whether it’s children not attending school, and if they do attend, there’s a drastic change in their grades. Whether it’s personality changes that are drastic in kids.”

Lisa Miriello is a victim advocate specialist for the FBI, she’s not involved in this case, but works with survivors in our area.

“Children are just inherently vulnerable. They’re vulnerable, because they trust in a way that as adults, we’ve almost learned not to,” Miriello said.

She said that’s why it’s so important that parents are proactive, having conversations with their children, helping them feel comfortable talking about uncomfortable things.

Miriello said without this, many times, children who are abused do not come forward or if they do it can be decades later as adults.

“Cases such as what’s currently being investigated, you have people that will see it on the news. They’ll see about a particular case, some sort of child endangerment case or child abuse, and they’ll say, wait a minute, that happened to me also, maybe not in that particular situation, but in a prior situation,” Miriello said.

There are extensive local resources for those who have been abused – Jewish Family and Community Services works with survivors – providing counseling and helping them open up to police to prevent more cases.

“Church, school or sporting events, you know, those are supposed to be safe places,” said Colleen Rodriguez, CEO of Jewish Family and Community Services. “But again, I would encourage parents to believe your children, and also look for signs. It’s not normal for an adult to want to spend one on one time alone with your child over and over again. I mean, really get to know those people what’s happening during those times.”

Resources for survivors and their families

  • The National Sexual Assault Hotline, 24 hours, call 1-800-656-4673
  • To report abuse to the Florida Department of Children and Families, click here
  • FBI’s tips on protecting children, click here
  • Sexual abuse survivors in the Jacksonville area can get resources through Jewish Family & Community Services (JFCS), call 904-448-1933 or email info@jfcsjax.org

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.