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.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • bank1 West End bank robbed

    The West End branch of AmeriServ Financial was robbed Tuesday morning, two days before the branch is scheduled to close.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • weather_2 Old Man Winter returns to area

    Just when you think we’ve finally escaped the cold temperatures, winter swoops back in to remind us it’s not going away just yet.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    April 15, 2014

  • City seeks support for sewer revamp

    The city is looking for backup from the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority in spreading what they call “true” facts and figures regarding the city’s encompassing sewer revamp.

    April 15, 2014

  • Airport gets lift with $180G grant

    The John Murtha Johnstown–Cambria County Airport needs to replace some basic maintenance equipment: a pickup truck, painting machine, chain saw, weed eater, hand tools and more.
    So, on Tuesday, the airport’s authority agreed to accept Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Bureau of Aviation grant money that already has been tentatively allocated.

    April 15, 2014

  • Cresson asks court to force ex-chief to sign pact

    An agreement reached more than a month ago between Cresson Borough Council and its former police chief still has not been signed, and the borough is asking a judge to intervene.

    April 15, 2014

  • hamer 16 Mom told to seek help for addiction

    A Johnstown woman charged with tossing her 4-month-old baby and with drug-related offenses pleaded guilty and was sentenced in Cambria County court on Tuesday.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • District hopes refinancing will save additional $40G

    Refinancing about $4 million in debt will result in savings more than twice as large as initially expected, Windber Area school board members learned Tuesday night.

    April 15, 2014

  • Elder justice events set

    In an effort to combat elder abuse in area communities, an elder justice seminar will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 24 at the Johnstown Senior Center, 550 Main St., downtown Johnstown. In addition, a free elder abuse clergy training seminar will be held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. April 25 at Moxham Lutheran Church, 500 Park Ave., Johnstown.

    April 15, 2014

  • Local briefs 4/16/2014

    April 15, 2014


Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads