Penn State Report Shines Light on Child Abuse

PennstateLocal victim advocates hope the scandal will educate people on the importance of reporting incidents when they happen.

By James Boyle July 13, 2012

There is no question that nothing good came out of the 267-page report released Thursday morning that detailed the findings of Louis Freeh’s investigation of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of minors at Penn State and the lack of action by university officials to stop him.

For local advocates of child abuse victims, the only hopeful ray of light is the extra attention paid to the horrors of sexual abuse and the emphasis on the importance of intervening on behalf of the children.

“This report highlights the secrecy that surrounds the sexual abuse of children,” said Abbie Newman, executive director of Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center. “There are too many cases were there is reluctance to report the abuse. The only way to stop it is to report it to the proper authorities.”

Based in Blue Bell, Mission Kids assists victims of child abuse living in Montgomery County by offering emotional support and conducting investigations into claims. Newman says that since the group’s establishment in 2009, she has overseen more than 900 cases of child abuse in Montgomery County.

According to national statistics published on the National Children’s Alliance web site, more than 800,000 children are confirmed victims of either neglect or physical abuse in the United States. Children from birth to 6 years old are the most vulnerable to abuse. One in three girls and one in five boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18, and one in 10 victims disclose the abuse.

“We need to remove the stigma that comes with being a victim of abuse,” said Newman. “Abuse is in all of our communities. We need to be aware of it and report it when we see it. Who knows how many lives you will save?”

In an e-mailed statement sent to Patch, Barbara Clark, executive director of Bucks County-based Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA), condemned members of the Penn State administration for its reported failure to intervene on Sandusky’s actions as soon as possible.

“The fact that official intervention at the earliest stages could have saved many victims from a lifetime of pain is incomprehensible,” writes Clark. “We would encourage all institutions and organizations that undertake programs for children to review these findings and take this as an opportunity to obtain the training and develop the policies, support and transparency necessary to prevent such an egregious breach of trust and care of our children in the future.”

The Penn State board of trustees hired former FBI director Freeh to conduct an internal investigation into the scandal after a grand jury report released in November 2011 revealed detailed testimony of Sandusky’s repeated sexual abuse of multiple children on the grounds of the university. The former defensive coordinator for the school’s football team was indicted and later convicted of 45 counts of abuse of 10 boys. He still awaits sentencing.

Freeh’s report heavily criticizes the inaction by Penn State administrators, namely head coach Joe Paterno, President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz. Based on existing documentation and correspondence, the report concludes that the four concealed Sandusky’s actions as early as 1998 and again in 2001.

“The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized,” Freeh said in a statement on Thursday. “Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”