UNIVERSITY PARK - Despite the rain, Penn State’s first national conference on the topic of child sexual abuse kicked off today (Oct. 29) to a sold-out crowd. The two-day “Child Sexual Abuse Conference: Traumatic Impact, Prevention and Intervention” is being held at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on the University Park campus.
For the conference, Penn State convened some of the nation’s top experts in child sexual abuse and child trauma research, prevention and treatment for a public forum on this nationwide problem.
Doris MacKenzie, director of the Justice Center for Research at Penn State, and one of the organizers of the conference, opened the conference by introducing Penn State President Rodney Erickson, who spoke about the how the conference, and several other University initiatives to address the problem of child sexual abuse, came to be.
“The origins for this conference go back to one year ago, in the weeks following the release of the Jerry Sandusky grand jury presentment,” said Erickson. “During that time, our thoughts and hearts went out to the victims of these horrific crimes, and as a community we resolved to move forward by using all that is right about Penn State to tackle what is an insidious, hidden and epidemic issue."
“The statistics about child sexual abuse are frighteningly high – one in four girls and one in six boys abused before the age of 18. In 80 percent of the cases the abuse is perpetrated by a family member or trusted friend,” he added. “It deeply saddens and disturbs me to think of these children -- most of whom never tell anyone, even when asked. But that may be starting to change.”
“Child abuse is a tragedy for children, for families and for society, and the time to step up the effort to stop it is now. For our part at Penn State, we believe we can contribute to this effort by doing what we do best; that is teaching, research and service. This conference is one of our many initiatives to serve that end.”
The first presenter of the day was David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory, professor of sociology, and university professor at the University of New Hampshire. He has been studying the problems of child victimization, child maltreatment, and family violence since 1977 and is considered the foremost expert on childhood victimization, with a special emphasis on childhood sexual abuse. Finkelhor’s presentation is available on WPSU’s YouTube channel.