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Sexual Abuse Of Youngsters At State Hospital Revealed
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 21, 2004

SALEM, OREGON--The Portland Oregonian on Sunday and Monday featured a 2-part series on sexual abuse of young people with mental illnesses at Oregon State Hospital.

As many as a dozen young people with mental illness were abused while housed at Ward 40, the unit reserved for patients ranging in age from 5 to 18, between 1989 and 1994.

State officials told the Oregonian, however, that only three patients were sexually abused at Ward 40 since 1986.

The police reports, court records, and interviews with former employees and patients that the Oregonian compiled paint an entirely different picture: An institution that had private places where patients could be abused in seclusion; that hired staff members with histories of sexual assault; that failed to immediately call police or child protective officials when abuse was suspected or discovered; that blamed young victims for their abuse; that removed whistle-blowers who reported the crimes; and that paid victims more than $1 million to keep them from telling their stories to the media.

Some of those who claimed to be sexually abused by staff members at Ward 40 later tried to take their own lives.

Some succeeded.

Lawmakers are now calling for an investigation into the newspaper's claims.

One state senator wants more video cameras installed in the facility.

Another wants to clear out the facility, which now houses just 17 patients, and place them in smaller settings closer to their homes.

"Most of the patients would be better served in community-based facilities where they have ties to family and have a better chance of recovery," Senator Avel Gordly told the Oregonian.

"That hospital has become a prison," Gordly said. "It's as if the patients were all criminals serving time. That's wrong."

Related stories from The Oregonian:
"Betraying a fragile trust" (September 19)
"Whistle-blower forced out, records suggest" (September 19)
"Ward of state, world of hurt" (September 20)
"Lawmakers demand changes" (September 21)

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