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Expert: Conversation Shouldn't Solely Focus on Child Sexual Abuse, but All Sex Crimes

by on March 30, 2014 8:00 AM

While Pennsylvania has made progress in awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse in the wake of the Jerry Sandsuky scandal, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape says it is critical to put a spotlight on all sexual abuse.

Following the arrest of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is now a convicted pedophile, Penn State University teamed up with PCAR to enhance awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse. The university and PCAR have both touted success through that partnership.

At the same time, Kristin Houser, spokeswoman for PCAR, recently told StateCollege.com it is critical for such initiatives to focus on all victims of sex crimes, not just children.

"Many people who commit sexual offenses are not pedophiles, but the damage they cause to the community is no less than child sexual abuse," Houser says. "I do think helping the community expand the conversation about sexual abuse beyond children to look at the lifespan is really important."

While the Sandusky case was a child abuse sex case, Houser says the reality is many people who commit sex offenses against children also abuse teens and adults, which can also include gender cross over. She says it's also important to highlight sexual abuse on college campuses, which is prevalent across the country.

Houser says around the world it is often said that children are innocent victims, which is true, however, she says such a statement can imply that adult victims are not as innocent. Just as an offender grooms a child, an offender grooms an adult in an attempt to get away with the abuse, Houser says.

"It sort of uncovers a lot of misinformation of adult sexual assaults," she says.

Additionally, Houser says it is important to change the double-standard for victims based on gender. For example, House says there is a stereotype that if a female assaults a male victim it equates to a "badge of honor" for the victim.

"It is damaging," she says. "Our societal standards make it much harder for that young man to come forward."

As part of Penn State's partnership with PCAR, over the past year more than 30,000 people affiliated with the university have received training to identify and report suspected child abuse.

Additionally, PCAR has used a portion of the $1.5 million provided by Penn State to fund several initiatives. The funds came from Penn State's 2011 share of the Big Ten bowl revenues as part of the university's effort to fight the crime of child abuse.

PCAR also is one of 18 sponsors of Penn State's upcoming third annual Conference on Child Protection and Well-Being to be held May 5 and 6 at the Nittany Lion Inn. The two-day conference will focus on "Parenting, Family Processes and Intervention" and feature presentations and panel discussions from top researchers in the field.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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