APD searches for other victims after preschool employee accused of sexually abusing 5-year-old arrested


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department arrested a 20-year-old man Friday morning and charged him with aggravated sexual assault of a child.

APD says Steven Ahlberg sexually abused a then-5-year-old child at the Reggio Emilia Multilingual Preschool Academy in southwest Austin from November 2017 to October 2018. The child, who is now eight years old, made an outcry to her family about the alleged abuse in November 2020, APD says. Ahlberg would’ve been about 17 at the time of the abuse.

The victim told her family the alleged abuse happened on more than one occasion, APD says. APD would like parents who had kids enrolled in the school from October 2016 to November 2020 to come forward with any information about suspected physical or sexual abuse of children.

In a press conference Friday afternoon, APD Det. Darrel Lambert with the child abuse unit said he interviewed Ahlberg himself in December. Lambert said he did admit to having sexual contact with the victim but ‘did not sense any remorse’ from him.

An arrest affidavit said the victim showed some behavioral signs of being abused when she was enrolled at the preschool.

Her family said she had “increased anxiety about what clothing she should wear” and had more bedwetting incidents during that time. Her family said she also suffered from night and day terrors that were happening more often.

Lambert said Ahlberg was arrested at his home in Kyle and is at Hays County Jail. He started as a volunteer at the daycare in 2016 and took on many roles at the facility including preparing meals for the kids and being a relief teacher for other staff.

His family, who also owns the daycare where the alleged abuse took place, was notified in advance the arrest was taking place. APD said they have been cooperative with the investigation and emphasized there were no indications of wrongdoing on their part.

The family is expected to start notifying parents or guardians who sent their children to the daycare during the nearly four-year period. Lambert expressed if you are one of these parents, not to rush conversations with your child overnight.

Right now, he said the case stands alone, but there could be an additional charge of continuous sexual abuse of a child or children if other victims are found.

As result of the investigation, Family Protective Services have barred Ahlberg from “having any access to the school or its children starting on Dec. 4, 2020” and banned him from the premises and having any contact with children who attend, or used to attend, the school.

Talking with your child about sexual abuse

During the press conference Friday afternoon, Austin police gave some guidelines on how to discuss sexual abuse with your child. They encourage parents and guardians to start early, not just when something bad happens.

  • Leave the door open for your child to talk to you, let them know it’s a safe place
  • Talk about body parts using proper vocabulary, which will give your child the tools to express what happened to them in a way that is understandable to law enforcement
  • Talk about establishing boundaries, and let them know they can say ‘no’ if touches are uncomfortable
  • Teach them about secrets and how predators use this tactic against them
  • Ask questions; be patient when waiting for their responses

Additionally, they provided some signs to look out for that could indicate your child is being sexually abused.

  • A marked change in behavior – this could be sleep schedule changes, beginning to wet the bed suddenly, a sudden change in grades, etc.
  • An outcry – sometimes a child will start expressing what happened to them on their own. If they start talking and it seems strange, that’s when you need to start asking questions

If you need to contact police about this case, you can call APD’s Child Abuse Unit at (512) 974-6880. If you would like to speak to a Victim Services counselor, call (512) 974-5037.

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