Child sex abuse policy recommendations published in Science magazine

EUGENE, Ore. -- A University of Oregon psychologist is calling for the creation of a new national institute on child abuse and interpersonal violence in a major policy article published in the April 22 issue of the journal Science.

Jennifer Freyd, an authority on trauma, is the lead author of "The Science of Child Sexual Abuse." She and six co-authors who are experts in psychiatry, law, political science and psychology, recommend:

  • stepping up research aimed at determining the prevalence of child sex abuse and identifying its causes, consequences, prevention and treatment

  • expansion of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a federally funded coalition of 54 centers providing community-based treatment to children and their families, to address the enormous public health consequences of child trauma

  • creation of an Institute of Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence within the National Institutes of Health

David Spiegel, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine, said publication of this summary of research and its implications in the nation's leading general science journal "is a tremendous opportunity to shed light on an important and neglected area."

"Science is most needed where passion overshadows reason," Spiegel said. "Jennifer Freyd has applied the tools of science to this contentious area, helping us understand the effects of trauma in the family and the disruption of cognition and memory that can occur during and after childhood abuse."

Freyd, a University of Oregon psychology professor whose theory of betrayal trauma explains why some people do not recall their abuse until later in life, has conducted studies that show abuse perpetrated by a caregiver increases the likelihood of memory failure.

"Unfortunately, many factors silence victims of abuse," Freyd said. "Myths about

Contact: Melody Ward Leslie
University of Oregon

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