Penn State announced Wednesday that it will host a national child sex-abuse conference this fall, the latest in a series of initiatives designed to raise awareness of the issue and help the university recover from a devastating molestation scandal.
The gathering scheduled for Oct. 29-30 in State College will feature academic and clinical experts on childhood molestation and trauma, as well as remarks by retired boxing champ Sugar Ray Leonard and former kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart, both of whom suffered sexual abuse.
“Penn State has made a commitment to becoming a leader in the research, prevention and treatment of child abuse, and this conference is an important part of that,” university President Rodney Erickson said in a statement.
The school's pledge came in the wake of stunning charges against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys, and the alleged cover up by top university officials that was detailed in the Freeh Report.
The case has led Penn State and its supporters to push numerous research and prevention efforts, including:
- Creating the Center for the Protection of Children and donating $1.1 million in football bowl revenues to help fund it.
- Giving $1.5 million in bowl revenues to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, which operates rape crisis centers across the state.
- Raising more than $548,000 from alumni for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which bills itself as the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.
- Adding blue ribbons to its football uniforms to show support for victims of child abuse. A Sept. 22 game also has been designated a “Blue Out,” where fans are encouraged to wear blue and donations will be collected around Beaver Stadium.
Another huge contribution to the cause will come from the $60 million penalty imposed on Penn State by the NCAA. That money, to be paid over five years, will fund programs for the detection, prevention and treatment of child abuse.
A national survey showed that more than 9 percent of children were victims of sexual abuse in 2010, although the crime is severely underreported, according to Kate Staley, a Penn State researcher and co-organizer of the October conference.
Topics to be addressed include the traumatic impact of child sexual abuse, methods of treatment and prevention, legal issues and the characteristics of pedophiles, including their use of the Internet.
The keynote speaker is Leonard, the ex-boxer who has revealed he was abused as a child. The event will close with remarks from Smart, a Utah woman who was abducted from her home in 2002 at age 14 and sexually abused during nine months in captivity.
The public is invited, and organizers are hoping for a robust turnout, university spokeswoman Jill Shockey said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a post-trial hearing transcript unsealed Wednesday revealed that a prosecutor in the Sandusky case said a lot of incriminating evidence wasn't presented to the jury that convicted him.
Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina did not offer details of the additional evidence at the hearing, which was held four days after Sandusky was convicted.
“I'm talking about incriminating information beyond that which was presented during the trial,” Fina told a judge. “There's a great deal of that in the discovery. Evidence that, for a variety of reasons, the commonwealth didn't utilized but was highly incriminating of Mr. Sandusky.”
Sandusky awaits sentencing and will spend the rest of his life in prison.