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JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) -- A new law now in effect in Indiana takes aim at would-be child sex abusers before they ever become a predator. 

Indiana Senate Bill 551, which went into effect July 1, allows parents to seek a protective order against someone they believe is having inappropriate communications with their child. John Taylor, a counselor with Family and Children’s Place in southern Indiana, said the bill could create a barrier and option for parents that previously did not exist.

“It gives parents some power ... to be able to say, 'We see this as inappropriate, and we want that to stop,'” Taylor said.

Much like a domestic violence order, a parent can now go to the courthouse and fill out paperwork with a court clerk to begin the process. Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said it should only take a few days to get the order in place.

“What we see often times is a child predator will contact a child over the internet or messaging apps, and the parents sometimes become aware of this and want it stopped but don't have a legal means to do that,” Mull said.  

Mull said the law will now allow parents to do just that.

“Many of these predators operate under the cover of darkness,” he said. “When the light of day is shown upon them, and the parents say, 'Hey, we know who you are and what you’re doing,’ many times, that will cause the person to change their behavior.”

Grooming can happen in person but is increasingly happening via social media or messaging apps, Taylor said.

“There's all forms of grooming and identifying and finding ways to hurt children,” he said. “It’s not so much outsiders as it is folks that may know the kids or know the family.”

A recent example in southern Indiana is Michael Begin. Begin, a 19-year-old, admitted to molesting numerous young children in his role at the local YMCA and elementary school.

Left untreated, Taylor said the effects of child sexual abuse can last for decades.

“Not being able to trust, not knowing what a healthy relationship is, not being able to be secure in your own feelings and things like that,” he said.

If you witness or suspect child abuse, it can be reported in Kentucky at (877)-597-2331 and Indiana at (800)-800-5556.

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Travis Ragsdale joined WDRB in Jan. 2015. He focuses primarily on investigative reporting involving police, local government and infrastructure. He can be reached at 502-585-0817