Local doctors say child sex abuse happening at 'alarming rates' - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Local doctors say child sex abuse is happening at 'alarming rates'

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Every day, there's a new case, children emerging from all corners of Multnomah County that are young victims of sex abuse in need of help, according to doctors.

"Over the course of the week, we will see what is about the average size of an elementary classroom of kids. That's a lot of children," said Kevin Dowling, CARES Northwest executive director.

One in every four girls and one in every seven boys are victims of child sex abuse, according to doctors, statistics, they say, that are clearly troubling.

"I've worked here for 19 years, and I think you get the sense that, shouldn't we have seen all of the kids by now?" said Dowling. "Not a week goes by that there's not a case, and I think about how we are doing this to our children? How come we let this continue to happen to our kids?"

FOX 12 sat down with a panel of doctors at CARES Northwest, a child abuse assessment center in North Portland. These are the doctors that work day in and day out with the region's most vulnerable kids.

"We know the abuse is happening. We know it's happening at alarming rates," said Kim Jacobowitz, CARES Northwest family support team member.

Doctors say there aren't necessarily more instances of sex abuse happening now. Rather, more kids are beginning to feel comfortable reporting the abuse than ever before.

"I think what [it]  is, is that people are doing a better job listening to kids," said Dr. Linda Lorenz, retired CARES Northwest and Kaiser Permanente Northwest Pediatrician.

"So when they make a disclosure, people are more likely to give kids help than they were 20 years ago. I think it's hopeful," she said.

What hasn't changed in the last 20 years, doctors say, is who usually commits these crimes.

"We see people that the families trust and allow into their households. That's who is sexually abusing kids, and that hasn't changed," said Lorenz.

A trusted friend, youth leaders, teacher, coaches and, more often than not, family members - doctors say those are the most common predators, not strangers.

"Sometimes I wish people were aware of how common abuse is. If they knew I think they'd want to do something about it," said Dowling.

To protect kids, these doctors say, the focus should be on providing kids with a safe place to always share their feelings.

"Most importantly, we need to get kids and parents to talk about the event and what happened and helping them to create an environment where it's not too shameful to talk about it," said Lorenz.

Above all else, doctors say, prevention is key.

That means teaching kids how to protect themselves from abuse and what to do when they need help, says Lorenz, who believes that is the only way to truly stop the cycle of abuse.

"Ultimately, that would be the way," said Lorenz. "We'd like to put ourselves out of business."

Doctors at CARES Northwest teach classes on the topic of prevention. For more information, visit http://www.caresnw.org/who-we-are/prevention/

There are countless other community organizations that support victims of abuse, including:

http://oaasisoregon.org/

http://sarcoregon.org/

http://www.morrisonkids.org/

To view part one of FOX 12's investigative series on child sex abuse, click this link: Woman abused by priest speaks out

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