For Beebe Medical Center, the child sexual abuse case against Lewes pediatrician Earl Bradley hit close to home because Bradley once had hospital privileges.
It also made the hospital ground zero for treatment of victims.
In order to study the long-term needs of child sexual abuse victims, Beebe commissioned a report from the Joseph J. Peters Institute, a Philadelphia-based organization with more than 50 years of experience helping victims of sexual abuse.
The 89-page report uses the Bradley case to examine the problem of sexual violence against children, its effects on the children and their families and the community at-large.
Beebe CEO Jeffrey Fried said the hospital asked for the report to get a road map to deal with the problems of sexual abuse in the community.
"This wasn’t something that we developed for our own use; we felt it was something that was important to do for the children and the families,” he said.
Cheri Will, sexual assault/domestic violence coordinator at Beebe Medical Center, said the report was an effort to go beyond the immediate crisis of child sexual abuse and look deeper.
"The Peters report is more of a comprehensive overall look at what people go through who have been victimized as children through the span of their lifetime,” she said.
Will said child sexual abuse can produce secondary symptoms later in life, such as anorexia, self-mutilation, alcohol and drug use, as well as becoming abusers themselves.
Will calls child sexual abuse an epidemic that requires ongoing resources and treatment. Will said with or without Bradley, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18. According to the report, as many as 90 percent of children who are sexually abused do not report the abuse at the time it occurred.
“Because of the Bradley case we were able to have these conversations. But there’s a lot of child sexual abuse out there that is not related to Bradley. Child sexual abuse has a lot of tentacles that go out,” Will said.
Will said after the Bradley charges came to light, the state provided considerable manpower for children who needed counseling. However, she said, counseling needs to continue over the long haul. Will said a big part of that is education and addressing the problem by directly discussing the trauma of child sexual abuse.
The report emphasizes education to make children, parents and others involved in child care more aware of child sexual abuse. The report also calls for better access and training of medical personnel in the evaluation and treatment of children that have been victims.
To accomplish those goals, the report calls for establishing a local center specializing in prevention, evaluation and treatment of child sexual abuse and other traumas.
“Such a center could extend services beyond the victims in the current case to the people of Sussex County and be a resource for prevention and treatment for the full array of trauma-related problems. In addition to sexual abuse, this could include other forms of child maltreatment, domestic violence and other victims of crime, natural disasters or accidents, and other sources of trauma,” the report said.
Will said nearly two years after Bradley was arrested she still gets a call every other week from a parent in the Bradley case looking for counseling services. She said at the beginning of the case, Beebe received 12 to 20 calls a week.
“The ultimate goal of the report, for me, is to get people to look at child sexual abuse as really an epidemic," Will said, noting that people need longterm help. "There’s ongoing issues you need to continually address," she said.