"As representatives of organizations working with victims of child sexual abuse and engaged in prevention efforts for many years in Centre County, we were pleased with the support of such programs in the recently released Paterno family response to the Freeh report. We are concerned, however, with the impression created by Mr. Clemente that a new national organization is needed to address the needs of victims of child sexual abuse and create new prevention programs. We realize that child sexual abuse is an issue that few people think about until they are impacted by a crisis, and thus knowledge of existing resources may be limited. It is important, however, that the community know how we have responded and what work is being done to meet the needs of victims and to prevent child sexual abuse.
Within weeks after Jerry Sandusky's arrest, representatives from the Centre County Women's Resource Center (CCWRC), the Centre County Youth Services Bureau (YSB), the YMCA of Centre County and the Centre County United Way met to discuss what the community needed and how we might provide it. These collaborative partners designed and received a two-year non-renewable grant to fund a comprehensive Child Abuse Prevention Project which launched in the spring of 2012. The centerpiece of the Project is the nationally recognized Stewards of Children training which informs and mobilizes adults to act to prevent child sexual abuse. To date, over 1500 Centre Countians have participated in the Stewards of Children training. Other components of the Project include enhanced risk reduction programs for children and training for mandated reporters and a public awareness campaign.
At the same time, a wider group of concerned Centre Countians, under the leadership of Judge Brad Lunsford, began work toward the establishment of a Child Advocacy Center. The "one-stop-shop" approach used by an Advocacy Center will both minimize the negative impact on victims of a child abuse investigation while assuring that system professionals are working together toward supporting the victims and holding perpetrators accountable.
Other on-going initiatives include a series of support groups for adult victims of child sexual abuse established by the CCWRC with a small grant from RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network). Single gender groups are available for men and women and a mixed gender group is available for significant others, adults in supportive relationships with those who were victimized as children. Early in 2012, Penn State established a partnership with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), linking University resources and those of rape crisis centers across the Commonwealth to enhance services and prevention work. And last October Penn State hosted a national conference on child sexual abuse which brought together researchers and service providers to think and work together to address child sexual abuse at the local, state and national level.
The reality is that local, state and national organizations have been working to address the issue of child sexual abuse in our community and in communities across the nation for many years. Here in Centre County, those of us who work in the fields of sexual abuse and with at-risk children responded creatively and collaboratively within days of the revelations of the scandal, building on our years of working together, to create a safer place for our children. The sad fact remains, however, that such efforts continue to be under-resourced and our best efforts are too often initiated with small, one-time grants. What is needed in Centre County for victims of child sexual abuse - for our children and the adults they will become - is a consistent and reliable source of funding for services for victims and for the prevention work that will eliminate child sexual abuse in our community. This is where our efforts and energies should be focused.
We encourage anyone who is interested in either services for victims or in becoming involved in prevention efforts to contact the CCWRC, the YSB, the YMCA or the United Way to find out more, to support these critical initiatives, and to join us in making Centre County a safer place for our children and for us all."
Anne K. Ard, Executive Director, Centre Co. Women's Resource Center
Andrea Boyles, CEO, Centre Co. Youth Service Bureau
Howard Long, President/CEO, YMCA of Centre County
Tammy Gentzel, Executive Director, Centre County United Way