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Sexual abuse against children, a national and local epidemic

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Officials are calling it "the nation's least recognized epidemic." Sexual crimes against children are on the rise, and the vast majority of the time, the abuser is someone the family knows and trusts.

A study by the US Justice Department found that strangers commit fewer than 4% of sexual assaults against children. 75% of the victims are from middle class families. And between 300- and 400-thousand of the nation's children are sexually exploited every year.

News on Six reporter Tami Marler says the news is better in Tulsa. But not so good in some rural communities. In some Tulsa suburbs, officials say sex crimes against children have exploded. One Tulsa-based group is hoping to help victims from all over the state. Tulsa Police say convicted child rapist David Beasley struck again in this North Tulsa neighborhood. This time they say the victim was 11 years old.

Two weeks later, police arrest Jason Jennings for allegedly groping a 12-year-old girl inside a Tulsa Wal-Mart; Police fear she's not the only victim.

The families of five Bixby girls are shocked by a judge's decision to allow Gary Wayne Jackson to plea-bargain to assault. He was arrested on charges ranging from molestation to sodomy against five neighborhood girls, ages four to eleven, he'll spend no time in prison.

Is Tulsa following the national trend, or are these just high profile cases? Detective Liz Woolen of the Tulsa Police, “We've not seen any major flux upward or downward; it's pretty steady, unfortunately." Woolen investigates crimes against children, including sexual abuse in kids under age 11; her youngest victim was only 3 months old. "Every once in a while I'll we'll go to a crime scene and I'll think to myself 'this is it, I've seen the worst that humans can do to one another, and then unfortunately I'll respond to another crime scene and I'll think no I was wrong. This is the worst."

At the Child Abuse Network, they're regularly shocked by the crimes they see, about 20 to 25 cases a week, half are sexual abuse. "And the idea of this is joint investigations." Woolen works with the Department of Human Services and medical experts, the idea is to minimize the trauma to victims who've endured the unthinkable. Dr. Penny Grant: "It's just against human nature. But because of the way this system works we get results; and every now and then we do good for a child and there is nothing in the world like that."

In a room, with investigators from every department close by, victims have to tell the story only once, in their own time, and their own way. "Boy you get those markers out, and they really like to draw and they're more apt to tell you what's going on."
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