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Penn State Case Sharpens Focus on Prevention in Idaho

November 16, 2011

BOISE, Idaho - A trusted, popular figure accused of child sexual abuse - with associates accused of covering it up.

That description of the Penn State case is a typical child-abuse scenario - but the abuse can be prevented, and the Gem State has an active anti-abuse campaign.

In more than 90 percent of sexual-abuse cases, says Roger Sherman, Idaho Children's Trust Fund executive director, the child and its family know the abuser.

"It really up to us as adults to make a difference for kids. Kids must not be held responsible for protecting themselves from abuse."

The trust fund is working with organizations around the state to educate people about their role in preventing child sexual abuse. Basic steps include minimizing opportunity, learning the signs and acting on suspicions.

Sherman says 80 percent of sexual-abuse cases happen in one-on-one adult-child situations. That doesn't mean parents should look upon community members suspiciously, he adds, but it does mean that schools, churches, recreation programs and child-care centers can set policies to protect children.

"Coaches should not be alone with one child. The priest should not be alone with one child. We can change those things, creating safe spaces for kids."

The Idaho Children's Trust Fund offers workshops and other resources to teach adults how to prevent abuse. Information is online at idahochildrenstrustfund.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID