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Citizen's View: Children's Center working to help victims of child sexual abuse heal

With so much attention in the media recently regarding the Duggar family and the actions of their eldest son, Josh, when he was a teenager, numerous issues have been raised surrounding sexual behavior problems in youth and how parents and caregivers can appropriately respond.

For child abuse intervention centers nationwide, many of our most heart-wrenching cases involve families in which sibling abuse has occurred. Parents are distraught about the victimization of one child, while terribly worried about the legal consequences to another child. The anguish of parents as they struggle to provide emotional support and effective intervention to both the child victim and the child with sexual behavior problems is real and palpable.

Thankfully, Children’s Center and 20 other child abuse intervention centers in Oregon and their multidisciplinary teams (MDT) can help families navigate this difficult time. Child abuse intervention centers and their MDTs serve as a gateway to services that can help victims heal and ensure youth with sexual behavior problems receive effective treatment and are held accountable for changing their behavior.

It is important to note that youth with sexual behavior problems are more common than most people realize. In fact, 89 percent of child abuse victims seen in Oregon child abuse intervention centers know their abuser. In Oregon, the perpetrators of child abuse and neglect are most often family members, making up 94 percent of all child abuse and neglect perpetrators, according to the Oregon Department of Human Services. As Clackamas County’s sole provider for child abuse assessments, Children’s Center will serve over 2,000 vulnerable children and families, community members and care providers this year.

Clackamas County has a program specifically designed to intervene when the sexual behavior of young children raises concerns, called Response to Inappropriately Sexualized Kids (RISK). As a RISK partner, Children’s Center often responds to concerns, contacts the families to offer support and to refer them to appropriate services. The program is designed to provide treatment to children with sexual behavior problems. The good news is that this is an effective program that demonstrates these children can be treated.

As we have witnessed a more than 5 percent increase in the number of reported cases of child abuse and neglect in the state this past year, I hope this instance will only further draw attention to the issue of child abuse and how we all are responsible for protecting our nation’s children. I also encourage parents and caregivers to contact their local Department of Human Services office and to learn more about the services offered by Children’s Center.

For more information about Children’s Center, please visit http://www.childrenscenter.cc.

Barbara Peschiera is executive director of the Clackamas County Children’s Center.

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