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Recent sex abuse cases affecting local survivors, therapist says

SEATTLE – As we continue to follow the Mayor Ed Murray child sex abuse allegations, there are thousands of people in our area potentially affected. National numbers show one in five adults were child sex abuse victims. So that would mean 300,000 people in King County alone.

Murray has denied the allegations, calling them false and hurtful. But a local therapy group says just having the issue of sexual abuse prominently raised in the news can affect people who are struggling with their own pain.

“You know in a word, sickening,” said Janice Palm, the Shepherd’s Counseling Services executive director and therapist.

Whether it’s the case of convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky, or accusations of sexual abuse leveled against President Donald Trump or Mayor Murray, Palm says the allegations being broadcast for the world to see can have real ramifications.

“We saw notably after the Sandusky allegations and then confirmation happen, a lot of men came forward and called. And a lot of that was fueled by so much anger at what had happened,” said Palm.

Then she says women flooded the lines after sexual assault allegations against Trump hit the airwaves.

“In the weeks after, we’ll get calls from people who say, OK, this triggered a whole bunch of memories and I’ve got to deal with this now,” said Palm.

Palm added that it’s seeing it happen to someone else that can give a survivor the strength to come forward. Shepherd’s Counseling Services exclusively works with adults who are child sex abuse survivors.

“'I believe you' are the three most important words that a child or adult could hear,” said Palm.

Murray’s private attorney noted that it took the mayor’s accuser three decades to come forward.

“For 30 years, nothing is said. And all of a sudden an accuser comes who apparently, and has been reported, has a long criminal record and makes these allegations,” said attorney Robert Sulkin.

“It’s not unusual actually at all for adults to wait decades before they come forward and speak out about it. Sometimes people feel like, well, that decreases the credibility and not at all. That’s usually how it goes, actually,” said Palm.

And what about the claims that accusers want money, fame, or political advantage so they simply make it all up?

Trump said of the allegations against him, “The events never happened, never. All of these liars will be sued."

“As far as adults, the range I’ve seen for adults who falsify events are 2 to 8 percent,” Palm said.

She added that even means people who have a troubled past.

Murray noted his accuser admitted in his lawsuit that he had been addicted to drugs in his teenage years, dropped out of high school and engaged in prostitution. “I understand the victim making these allegations is troubled and that makes me sad as well."

But Palm said that shouldn’t disqualify what someone says, but actually gives them more credibility.

“Depression, anxiety, drug, use, promiscuity, acting out. These are things that happen in efforts to get away from the pain, to deal with the pain,” said Palm.

She says society almost always puts the victim on trial when she says they deserve our support.

Click here to learn more about Shepherd’s Counseling Services.