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Penn State Case a Teachable Moment

November 16, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa - Not only should the alleged child abuse by a Penn State assistant football coach have been reported earlier, Iowa children's advocates say, but it could have been prevented in the first place.

Jim McKay, a child abuse activist, says there are proven ways to stop child sexual abuse from happening, such as organizations having policies designed to keep youths safe.

"Make sure the adults have appropriate background checks. Also, a key factor is to minimize situations where children are in a one-on-one adult situation."

He says the United States spends more than $100 billion per year treating the effects of child abuse.

Rules making sure adults are not alone with children have been proved effective, McKay says.

"Make sure there is always at least two adults with one child, or more than one child with one adult. You could reduce over half of the instances of child sexual abuse."

McKay says parents should ask if an organization requires background checks.

"You want to ask those questions as a parent. Does the local youth sports organization have background checks for coaches and assistant coaches who will be working with the children?"

Iowa law clearly requires people such as educators and doctors to report possible cases of abuse, he says.

"It's not enough for them to report to their supervisor their suspicions. They must directly file a report to child protective services."

The abusers in more than 90 percent of cases are not strangers, McKay says, and have a previous relationship with the children or the families. He says the effect of maltreatment can damage a child for life, causing physical or mental problems which can lead to drug abuse or other criminal behavior.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA