UO Expert Calls for Honest Fight against Child Sex Abuse

Article excerpt

Byline: Tim Christie The Register-Guard

Writing in the influential journal Science, a group of experts led by a University of Oregon professor have challenged researchers and policymakers to do a better job examining and combatting sexual abuse of children by adults.

Lead author of the one-page "Policy Forum" article in the April 22 issue is Jennifer Freyd, a UO psychology professor and national expert on child sex abuse.

The fact that some adults lure or force children into sexual activity is an uncomfortable topic for most people, which is one reason why society has tended to turn a blind eye to the problem, Freyd said at a campus news conference.

"But we need to talk about this, because there are many damaging misperceptions and even myths about child abuse," she said.

The Science article, whose authors represent the fields of law, medicine, political science, psychiatry and psychology, makes three specific recommendations:

Expansion of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a federally funded coalition now operating in 54 cities that provides community-based treatment to children and their families to address the public health consequences of child trauma.

Better research, including more interdisciplinary coordination and establishment of international consensus panels, to determine the prevalence of child sex abuse and identifying its causes, consequences, prevention and treatment.

Establishment of an Institute of Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence within the National Institutes of Health.

Such an institute would increase visibility and credibility of child sex abuse as a public health problem, Freyd said, and would lead to better funding and coordination of research.

Child sex abuse is both a crime and a public health problem, Freyd said. It's associated with serious mental and physical health problems, substance abuse, victimization and criminality in adulthood.

Societal costs of child sex abuse are estimated to be $24.5 billion each year, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report. …