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High-profile arrest of Northwest Iowa teacher raises awareness of child sexual abuse

High-profile arrest of Northwest Iowa teacher raises awareness of child sexual abuse

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa | After former elementary teacher Curtis Van Dam was arrested in October and charged with having sexual contact with an 11-year-old boy, emotions ran high in this Sioux County city.

Parents of children attending the private Sioux Center Christian School, where Van Dam taught, were upset. So were others in the community, Sioux Center police Chief Paul Adkins said.

Van Dam’s arrest and ensuing flood of media coverage did more than cause emotional outbursts.

It led to more victims coming forward.

Through interviews with children, investigators had identified other potential victims and contacted them. But there were others, previously unknown to authorities, who came forward on their own. A total of 15 boys have reported incidents that occurred when they were under the age of 12 or 13 and stretch back to to 2013, courtroom testimony has revealed.

“Some came forward on their own, or their parents or relatives came forward. It just mushroomed from there,” Adkins said. “In all my 40 years (in law enforcement), I’ve never experienced a case like this.”

Van Dam, 36, was immediately fired by the school and now faces 146 charges in Sioux County District Court. He’s also been charged in federal court with sexual exploitation and possession of child pornography.

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