Special Kay

Dr. Kay Rauth-Farley is compassionate, tough and skilled, qualities that have placed her on the front lines of Arizona's war against child abuse for a decade

"My job evolved out of a community need," she tells Sharon Simone, a fellow panelist seated next to her in the Orpheum dressing room.

"Nobody else wanted to do it, and someone had to do it," Rauth-Farley says. "But being a CPS caseworker is harder. At least I have a scientific basis to my job."

Panelist Simone is a Massachusetts woman who successfully sued her father, an FBI agent, for having beaten her incessantly as a child and young adult.

Nearby, radio personality Pat McMahon is chatting to sports czar Jerry Colangelo. Dan Rather--shorter, more crinkled and warmer in person than he seems on television--holds court in a nearby hall. Rauth-Farley wonders how she wound up in a forum with such dignitaries.

"I'm no big shot," the doctor says. "I just treat kids."
As it turns out, Rauth-Farley's talk with Simone is more compelling than the star-studded symposium.

Simone explains that, years earlier, she'd started to treat her own children like her father had treated her. That prompts Rauth-Farley--herself the mother of two college-age children--to speak of her own past.

"My first kid [Megan] was so colicky," she says, "and I didn't know what to do, even though I was in medical school at the time. Many a night, I thought I was one step away from losing it. But we were a two-parent household, and I'd hand her off to my husband. He'd calm her down, and calm me down. What if I hadn't had anyone to turn to, if I didn't have the resources or the education? Without the grace of God, I could have shaken my kid, boom."

Rauth-Farley reminisces of her early days in medicine: She tells of a doctor--a woman--who said she wasn't assertive or physically strong enough to be an orthopedic surgeon, and suggested she try nursing instead. And there was the male surgeon who rubbed up behind her suggestively as she treated an anesthetized patient.

"What did you do?" Simone asks.
"Absolutely nothing," Rauth-Farley replies. "This guy could have made life miserable for me at school. Still, I kind of wish I'd cleaned his clock right there and then."

She tells of joining the staff at St. Joseph's Hospital in 1989 as a teaching pediatrician, then working two mornings per week at the newly formed Child Abuse Assessment Center.

"The things I learned!" Rauth-Farley says.
One important lesson was that many of her peers are ignorant of basic facts involving the physical and sexual abuse of children:

"Here's one. A family-practice doctor sees a father and a daughter for herpes. The doc treats the dad, but he won't report anything about the daughter to authorities--to spare her reputation. Yeah, right. He never puts together that she got herpes from dad. I could have shot the guy [the doctor]. I've bitched about this kind of thing with BOMEX [Arizona Board of Medical Examiners] and the county attorney for nine years. Nothing ever happens."

Rauth-Farley recalls a 13-year-old sex-abuse victim who asked about not having orgasms.

"I'm thinking abuse, she's thinking orgasms," she says, incredulous. "When I was her age, I didn't care about or know about orgasms. I was playing baseball."

Finally, she tells about a northern Arizona teenager who allegedly had been subjected to ritual abuse. The girl had been diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder, with one "personality" claiming she'd be sacrificed at age 21. Rauth-Farley was asked to examine the girl for signs of abuse.

"So I'm . . . between her legs starting to check things out," the doctor says drolly. "She goes, 'The little ones want you to stop,' referring to some of her personalities, some of which are boys. I don't know if she's pulling my leg or not, but I don't care, as long as I can finish my exam. Suddenly, she bolts upright, which wasn't easy to do in her situation, believe me. I almost asked her to tell the 'little ones' to cool their jets for a minute."

Rauth-Farley laughs loudly. In her line of work, laughter is a godsend.

The forum at the Orpheum goes as well as can be expected with a full stage of talking heads discussing questions that are unanswerable. Rauth-Farley utters only a few comments before Rather turns to someone else.

That's too bad, because she's a passionate and convincing advocate, and a skilled debater.

And she's not impervious to the grim realities of her job. Her eyes well with tears when reliving an unsolved child murder.

She's persevered personally and professionally, she says, by virtue of her solid upbringing and her faith in God. But the road hasn't been easy.

As a teen, Rauth-Farley vowed to become a doctor. But her first try to get into medical school failed. Undaunted, she earned a master's degree in biology, gave birth to two children and completed medical school with her toddlers in diapers. She's suffered through her beloved son's serious illness, lupus.

Professionally, she tries to heal broken children day after day, year after year.

"She has intuition, knowledge, skill and grace," says Dr. Tascha Boychuk, an Arizona State University professor who worked with Rauth-Farley at St. Joe's.

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