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National Center for Victims of Crime Urges Better Response to Child Sex Abuse

November 8, 2011

Liz Joyce
(202) 467-8700

Washington, DC:
The National Center for Victims of Crime today called on the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and all educational institutions to respond quickly and forcefully to sexual abuse. The arrest of a former Penn State athletic coach for allegedly abusing eight boys shows why--for every institution in our society--protecting young people must become a top priority.

 "For too long, institutions have sought to protect their reputations by ignoring allegations of abuse," said Mai Fernandez, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. "Instead of explaining away or covering up these allegations, administrators can actually protect their institutions by rooting out individuals who commit abuse."

Research shows that abusers--except for the fact that they abuse children--usually appear to be respectable, ordinary citizens. They may be teachers, camp counselors, Boy Scout leaders, tutors, or coaches. Their one common trait is that they look for situations where they can be trusted with access to victims.

"Sex abusers win the trust of kids and the people those kids look up to--such as coaches and other officials," says former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Al Chesley, who was abused by a neighbor who was a police officer when Chesley was 13. "Predators camouflage themselves so its hard for anyone to figure out what they're doing, and they use organizations to keep hurting kids. It's in everyone's interest to find out who these people are and shut them down."

Institutions can take steps to protect themselves from harboring predators. They can conduct background screenings for prospective employees, especially those who work with young people. They can respond immediately to any allegations of abuse, making sure that victims report incidents and that these reports are investigated thoroughly. And they can follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's best practices for preventing sexual abuse in youth serving institutions.

Legislators throughout the nation can also do their part. Right now in Pennsylvania, for example, Judiciary Committee Chair Representative Ron Marsico is holding up a bill (HB 878) that would create a window of opportunity to allow child sexual abuse victims to sue, no matter how long ago they were abused. Similar legislation passed in Delaware in 2007 resulted in civil suits that exposed many previously unreported predators. Because it can take victims decades to address the abuse, and because many of these predators continue to abuse children, Pennsylvania should pass this legislation to help heal victims and prevent future crimes.

"When institutions take steps to eliminate sex abusers and legislators act to protect victims and prevent them from hurting children, we will make progress in preventing this crime," Fernandez added. "Institutions must earn their good reputations by responding forcefully to child sexual abuse."


The National Center for Victims of Crime, established in 1985, is the nation's leading resource and advocacy organization for crime victims and those who serve them. For more than 25 years, the National Center has led this nation's struggle to provide crime victims with the rights, protections, and services they need to rebuild their lives. For more information, visit www.ncvc.org.