While classes were canceled and stores were closed, not every part of Happy Valley shut down.
The first day of the anticipated Child Sexual Abuse Conference continued on as planned with distinguished speakers from across the field.
President Rodney Erickson opened the two-day conference at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center, speaking about the progress the university has made in looking for suspected abuse.
“Other universities are contacting us to find out how they too can strengthen their policies and procedures to make their campuses safer,” Erickson said. “States from California to Florida have introduced legislation to make it clear that child abuse reporting is not only a moral duty, it is the law.”
David Finkelhor was the first to speak at the conference at 9 a.m. Monday. Finkelhor is a professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, director of Crimes against Children Research Center and co-director of the Family Research Laboratory.
Finkelhor introduced his topic by saying it is unfortunately “grim and disturbing,” but also including the positives, such as the increased awareness and the laws put into action over the past decades.
Due to these positives, he even called the 20th and 21st centuries “tremendous milestone[s] in the history of child betterment.”
Finkelhor started the conference by talking about the basics. He clearly defined a pedophile as “somebody who has a primary and enduring sexual interest in pre-pubescent children.”
However, Finkelhor noted that the majority of sexual offenders are not pedophiles, but others who perpetrate for a variety of reasons, including lack of other sexual partners.
In terms of improved prevention of child sexual abuse, Finkelhor said there should be a focus on particular children who might be more subject to abuse. These children include those with “sexual orientation issues” who may have an increased sense of isolation and seek out a relationship, he said.
For a shortened lunch session speech at 1:15 p.m., President and CEO of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children Ernie Allen spoke.
Allen said our society has made great improvements in speaking about child sexual abuse, but two in three children who were abused still remain silent.
“I suspect just as Sugar Ray bared his soul to you, that there are people in this room today who were victims as children and have never told anybody,” he said. “You and millions of others are America’s hidden victims.”
Though all parents want to teach their children to be polite, Allen said it’s vital for parents to tell their kids to communicate and give them the self-confidence necessary to prevent abuse.
Penelope Trickett followed Allen, speaking at 2 p.m., and focused on the trauma impact of sexual abuse on older children and teens. Trickett is a professor of social work and psychology at the University of Southern California.
Trickett spoke about research studies she was a part of, which included cases of incest and sexual abuse of young girls. Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and depression are common effects on children in these cases. There are cognitive effects of sexual abuse that are sometimes not attributed to it, she said.
At the 3:15 session, Dr. Keith Kaufman spoke about a balanced approach to prevent sexual abuse crimes. Kaufman is a professor of psychology at Portland State University and an expert in sexual abuse.
He said information and facts should be examined to determine how to appropriately prevent sexual abuse crimes.
Some of the facts Kaufman presented included that less than 10 percent of offenders are strangers to the people they abuse, 85 to 95 percent of juvenile offenders will never commit a second sexual crime and almost half of sexual abuse is considered fondling.
Kaufman said residency laws for sex offenders actually make it impossible for them to live in many residential areas, forcing them to be homeless. This is a problem, he said, because it is harder to track and monitor a homeless offender.
Kaufman said the registration and notification laws regarding sex offenders are probably more popular than they should be because they are not as effective.
Following the last speaker, Vice President for Administration Thomas Poole spoke to the remaining audience, who stayed despite the weather.
“We also moved ahead with this conference because we made a promise about a year ago,” he said.