Eisenhower Auditorium housed child abuse survivors and experts Sunday night as they took part in a panel about surviving child sexual abuse.
Titled “Moving Forward: A Public Conversation on Surviving Child Sexual Abuse,” the panel consisted of survivors Margaret Hoelzer, Louise Williams Bishop, Christopher Anderson and moderator Cindy Christian. Less than 200 people attended the event.
Hoelzer, a two-time winning Olympian and National Children’s Advocacy Center spokesman, Bishop, a representative in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and Anderson, executive director of MaleSurivor, are all child sexual abuse advocates. Christian is the Director of Safe Space: Center for Child Protection and Health within the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The panelists began with a self-introduction regarding their experiences with child sexual abuse. Bishop said that while being a pediatrician in this field is difficult work, this issue spans far beyond Centre County.
When talking about her abuser Bishop said, “We think that people who do this are villains. He was as kind, cunning, as gentle as [anyone] would have expected.”
She later said, “Our children are suffering. We are here tonight to see if we can find ways to come together and make them whole.”
Anderson expanded on this topic when he said his absentee parents and limited social skills led him to feel outcast so that his abuser almost simultaneously gained his trust by being nice him.
“There’s this guy and I feel safe here. And he’s nice to me,” Anderson said, recalling his childhood perspective. Today, Anderson said he only remembers certain things about his childhood, excluding the name of the man who abused him.
Christian elaborated on the vulnerability of children when she said, “Child sex abuse is not like adult rape. Child sexual abuse is really the coercion and the manipulation of a child.”
Hoelzer expanded on this topic when she discussed “grooming.”
“Grooming is providing this avenue for sex offenders to have access to kids,” Hoelzer said.
In this, a sex offender must gain the trust of parents, and others who have a relationship with the child before he or she gains the opportunity to abuse the child, she said.
“In dealing with the situation with Sandusky, all of Penn State was groomed,” Hoelzer said to localize the issue.
Jerry Sandusky. the former Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse in June.
The conversation then moved to a question and answer portion where questions were submitted to the panel through Twitter, email and slips of paper.
Here, questions were raised regarding how to identify sexual abuse, what to do if someone suspects a child they know is being abused and how to promote awareness and advocacy for male survivors.
Regarding male survivors, Anderson said, “There are Sanduskys in almost every community in the United States. There are survivors in every community in the United States.”
Anderson also localized the topic of child sexual abuse further when he said, that according to the statistics that one in four women and one in six men are survivors roughly 10,000 students on campus may have experienced child sexual abuse.
While the panel covered a series of issues, there was one in particular that admissions worker from Penn State Altoona, Patricia Jurcik was looking forward to.
“Basically I just want to find out if there’s anything out there to look for,” Jurcik said.
Jurcik said she is now anticipating the birth of her granddaughter and while protective of her own children wanted to gain more insight as to who to trust.
During the question and answer portion, Christian said that there are not always obvious physical signs of sexual abuse, but the best thing one can do is listen to the child.
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