After Sandusky: What Next?

June 29, 2012

By Angela Liddle

Last Friday, Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 charges related to sexual abuse of children. The eyes of the nation – and internationally as well – were on Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. What might feel like the end of a long ordeal is really a starting place for increased vigilance to recognize and report child abuse.

What now? What do we do now that the trial is over? Here are a few things that are already underway:

  • Legislation requiring training for all school employees has been passed by both the state House and Senate and is on its way to Governor Corbett for signature. The passage of this important legislation was spearheaded by PFSA. We spent countless hours with legislators and their staff, educating them about child abuse and mandated reporting. We saw their incredulous looks when we told them that it’s possible for a person to teach a classroom of kids for 30 years and never have one minute of training on how to recognize and report child abuse. We made phone calls, sent emails, held meetings – and now, all mandated reporters working in public schools are required to have at least 3 hours of training every five years.  PFSA will continue to provide –as we have for more than a decade – expert training in how to recognize and report child abuse, at no cost and in dozens of local communities each year. The results of this training are clear –participants’ ability to recognize elements and indicators of child abuse or neglect and their proficiency in using the reporting procedures are both increased after they received the training.
  • During the Sandusky trial, we heard from parents who suspected there was something “not right” with Sandusky’s interaction with their child, but either through denial or lack of information about how sexual predators behave, they did not stop the abuse. Now they are tortured with guilt and passionate that other parents know what to look for and how to respond. Within days of the Sandusky arrest last fall, PFSA partnered with a national leader in the fight against child sexual abuse, Stop It Now! to share their accurate, complete resources on child sexual abuse with parents across Pennsylvania. Through website links and email blasts, PFSA spread the message that children should not have to protect themselves from abuse. They need caring adults to protect them. We also provided additional training and technical support to our network of parent education programs, so that those who work directly with families had resources for answering questions and making referrals for help.
  • Adults who sexually abuse children rely on the confusion and discomfort of other adults who may suspect the abuse but do not want to act on their suspicions. If you have ever seen an adult playing with a child in a way that makes you uncomfortable, but have thought “Oh, I’m just over-reacting” trust your instincts and ask more questions. Many concerned adults need tools and strategies to increase their comfort level in helping a child who might be abused – we want to help but we don’t know how. PFSA’s Front Porch Project is a community-based prevention program that has proven results – participants are much more likely to get involved and help a child after they attend the training. We’ve held 15 trainings across PA in the past year, with more being added to the calendar. They are free and offered in many local communities.

The big “what now?” from this tragedy is the need for every adult to commit themselves to learning more about child abuse and neglect, how to prevent it and how to report it if suspected. Every one of us has a role to play in preventing all types of child abuse; let’s take on that role completely, with knowledge and support from our fellow community members.