Partnering with a national counseling firm, Penn State is offering to cover the cost of counseling services for those Jerry Sandusky is charged with abusing, the university announced Wednesday.
The university won’t be involved in initiating or conducting the counseling, and the services will instead be coordinated through Praesidium, Inc., a “national leader” in sexual abuse counseling and management, Penn State Spokeswoman Lisa Powers wrote in an email. Penn State will pay for counseling services provided by Praesidium and by providers recommended by the program, Powers wrote, but the estimated total cost of the services isn’t clear yet.
“Our goal is to help as many people as we can who may have been affected, and to do it in a way that is as painless as possible for those people,” Powers wrote.
Individuals interested in the counseling service, or family and friends who are interested in the counseling, can contact Praesidium at 1-888-961-9273 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, according to a press release.
Any counseling an individual receives will remain confidential, and Penn State will never know the identities of those who called Praesidium, unless the caller opts to disclose that information to the university, Powers wrote. When contacting Praesidium, callers will be briefly interviewed but are not required to present proof that they are involved in the Sandusky case, Powers wrote.
Praesidium will be responsible for receiving calls related to Penn State’s counseling offer and helping callers to connect with a counselor close to their homes, Powers wrote. None of the counselors that Praesidium connects its callers with will be related to Penn State, Power wrote.
Powers also wrote that the university is contacting attorneys who have reached out to the university on behalf of individuals who said they were abused by Sandusky.
David Lisak — a founding Founding Board Member for 1in6, an organization that helps men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood and with loved ones — said that sexual abuse cases dealing with men create “unique issues,” and hotlines have a very specific purpose in reaching out to those who have experienced abuse.
It’s important for clinicians to be aware that men may have memories of being powerless and vulnerable, which will make them less likely to walk into a therapist’s office, Lisak said.
1in6 helps to train individuals who handle hotline calls through the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, Lisak said.
“That is such a delicate and crucial moment,” said Lisak, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts. “You desperately want that to be a positive moment.”
Jennifer Marsh, director of the National Sexual Assault Hotline, said that there are 1,100 hotlines routed through RAINN. RAINN is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization and operates the national hotline, she said.
Marsh said that special training for men who have experienced abuse has existed for several years, but there has been an increase in male users since the news broke about Sandusky.
Because many people use the hotlines to first disclose their abuse, Marsh said that the first phone call is very important.
“I can’t underscore how important that first interaction is,” Marsh said. “Many, many times we’ve heard of people who have had negative experiences the first time they told anybody.”
Both Penn State President Rodney Erickson and Chairwoman of the Penn State Board of Trustees Karen Peetz have said that the well-being of those who may have been harmed by Sandusky is a top priority of the university.
The potential partnership between Penn State and Praesidium has been in the works since January, when Peetz said at a Board of Trustees meeting that the university would try to provide help to the individuals Sandusky is charged with abusing, Powers wrote.
The announcement of the partnership was made shortly after it was finalized, Powers wrote.
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