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Penn State to donate $1.5 million to help sex-abuse victims

December 1, 2011 | 10:31 am

 

Penn State University, still coping with the fallout from a sex-abuse scandal involving a former football coach, will divert $1.5 million from its athletics programs and donate it to groups that help victims of sexual violence, the university announced Thursday.

The planned donation to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center is part of the school’s response to the scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who has been charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period.

Head coach Joe Paterno and the university's president were forced to leave last month because of the scandal.

In announcing the commitment to donate the funds, the school said the money would come from Penn State’s share of this year Big Ten bowl revenues.

“As a university and as people within a caring community we believe it is essential to take a deeper look at the core issue of child sexual abuse and to openly acknowledge the scope of the problem,” Penn State's new president, Rodney Erickson, said in the announcement.

"Our own experience shows that child sexual abuse greatly impacts individuals and entire communities," Erickson said. "It is now our responsibility to assist in raising awareness and in helping fight this insidious and often secret crime. We hope that our partnership will help break the silence that surrounds child sexual abuse and lead to better protection of our children."

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, based in Enola, Pa., is a nationally recognized leader in the field of sexual assault response and prevention. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognized the group’s expertise in 1999 by awarding it the contract for a new National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the nation's main information center on sexual violence. The coalition won the nationally competitive cooperative agreement again in 2004 and 2009, the university said.

“I am pleased that Penn State wants to establish a partnership with PCAR to utilize our knowledge, experience and resources,” said Delilah Rumburg, chief executive of the coalition and the resource center, in the announcement. “It shows strength to take a tragic situation and turn it into an opportunity to grow and learn.”

University president Erickson also urged the Penn State community to support existing efforts to raise funds for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, a counseling and crisis hotline.

Erickson has increased the university’s visibility on the issue since Sandusky was charged on Nov. 5, the day the scandal broke. On Wednesday night, Erickson appeared at a forum at the university's student union building and pledged to raise ethical standards so that anyone who witnesses abuse would know the morally correct response, not just the legally required action.

According to the grand jury in the Sandusky case, an assistant coach said he saw Sandusky raping a young boy in the school’s showers in 2002 and told Paterno, the head coach. Paterno then passed the information on to other university officials.

The boy was associated with a charitable group founded by Sandusky, who was known to bring children to the campus. Sandusky has denied the molestation charges though he has admitted showering with the child.

The grand jury said the allegations against Sandusky were not immediately brought to the attention of authorities.

The scandal and its fallout has led not only to the ouster of Paterno but also President Graham Spanier, who was forced to leave by the board of trustees. Athletic Director Tim Curley has been placed on administrative leave, and Vice President Gary Schultz, who was in charge of the university's police department, has stepped down. Schultz and Curley are charged with lying to the grand jury and failure to report to police.

Meanwhile, the first civil suit in the scandal has been filed. A plaintiff identified only as John Doe, now 29, alleges that at age 10 he was assaulted by Sandusky. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, names as defendants Sandusky, the charity he was associated with and Penn State.

The plaintiff is not part of the criminal case against Sandusky.

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