The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

April 30, 2013

Abuse-prevention experts gather

JOHNSTOWN — The Jerry Sandusky scandal cast a shadow over Pennsylvania last year. But Jackie Bernard, Blair County chief deputy district attorney, said the case can shed light on ways to better protect children for generations to come.

“Child abuse has always been something people didn’t want to talk about – even think about. But because of the Jerry Sandusky trial – and the strength his victims showed stepping forward – it’s a topic of discussion now,” Bernard said Tuesday at the 33rd annual Cambria County Child Abuse Prevention Workshop at Pitt-Johnstown’s Richland Township campus.

“People are more aware of child abuse,” she said. “And they’re more aware of the challenges prosecuting these cases.”

Bernard was part of an 11-member statewide task force picked last year to recommend how the state can better protect young abuse victims and properly punish those who prey on them.

In the wake of several high profile abuse scandals in the state, the timing was right, she said, referring to Sandusky and a separate, lengthy investigation into the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  

“These were (cases) where there were numerous instances of abuse ... and other people knew about it – or should have known,” Bernard said.

The state task force issued a 400-page report, urging for a culture change in how allegations are perceived, reported and handled.

Proposed changes include:

• Expanding the definition of “mandatory reporting” to require people in academic settings to alert authorities – not just supervisors – about suspected wrongdoings.

• Increasing penalties against those who don’t.

• Expanding the legal definition of what is considered child abuse.

• Increasing penalties for those who assault young children.

• Modifying the sentencing structure for those guilty of sharing graphic images or videos of child porn.

Efforts are intended to make the public  more alert to child abuse.

“People imagine a child abuser and they picture a monster,” Bernard said, observing that Sandusky’s reputation as a Penn State football coach and nonprofit founder challenged the stereotype.

“It can be anyone. A volunteer coach, a community leader, a local pastor. It can be a father, a neighbor ... or a friendly face.”

Bernard said Pennsylvania hasn’t given a significant overhaul to sex abuse guidelines and penalties since the late 1990s, but lawmakers have quickly acted on many of the task force’s recommendations, aiming to make many of them laws.

It takes a cooperative effort, one that extends beyond law enforcement to children and youth services, health care providers and numerous other groups statewide, Cambria Children & Youth administrator Betzi White said.

“We have to work hand-in-hand,” White said.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • WilliamsA ‘I thought I was going to die’

    Hornerstown resident Robert “Bobby” Williams said he endured two hours of surgery, suffered a heart attack and fears he may never again be able to fully use his right arm.

    April 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • JFD traing Firefighters practice river rescues

    Johnstown Fire Department members lift a “victim” out of the rescue basket during training Wednesday along the Stonycreek River flood-control wall

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    Here are the names of the 10 entrants that were chosen today-April 22, 2014.  If you see your name, call the Circulation Department at 814-532-5000 (#1) or 1-866-307-0905 to verify your information.

    April 22, 2014

  • sewer meeting map Sewer work will tie up traffic

    Brace yourselves.
    This summer’s sewer main replacement project will delay traffic with detours, closed streets and lane restrictions through one of Johnstown’s notoriously snarled neighborhoods.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • USS Somerset USS Somerset arrives at San Diego homeport

    The USS Somerset is home.
    The amphibious transport dock ship named in honor of the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 arrived at its new homeport of Naval Base San Diego on Monday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jablonski, Stephen Charges filed in courthouse bomb threat

    A Johnstown man was charged by Ebensburg Borough police Wednesday with threatening to blow up the Cambria County Courthouse, a call he admitted to Ebensburg police he made Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Vizza, Peter Vizza voted deputy mayor

    The top vote-getter in last year’s Johnstown City Council election is now also the city’s deputy mayor.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Conemaugh Township rezoning opens business possibilities

    A portion of South Main Street in Davidsville will be rezoned to give greater allowances to the businesses along the road.

    April 23, 2014

  • Sculptor’s work to be raffled off

    The work of a local sculptor will be raffled off during the Art in Bloom show.

    April 23, 2014

  • Katie and Gary Lamer Birthday remembrance bash provides aid to region

    It’s been four years since Johnstown resident Gary Lamer died of complications from pneumonia, but his memory lives on through an annual party that gives back in a big way.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads