Jul 15, 2012 7:38 PM by Matt Stafford

Local group hopes child abuse prevention training isn't underutilized

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky waits on his sentence; he was found guilty of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year span. As the case has gone forward its increased discussion about child abuse nationwide; continuing on topics like how to prevent it, but also focusing on specifics like, who's considered a mandatory reporter if they see it and where locally should they report what they saw?

Those are topics that local non-profit Safe Passage helps organizations navigate through free private training sessions. Employees of Safe Passage thought more local groups would seek training after the national attention during the Sandusky case, but the numbers haven't been what they expected.

"We didn't get the requests or the increase in requests that we thought we would," says Wilene Lampert, executive director of Safe Passage. It's not because of business (they're a non-profit and don't charge for the training sessions), it's about making sure children are surrounded by adults willing to protect them.

"That (the lack of increase in numbers for training) means either that people are still afraid to really deal with this issue, or we're better at educating our community than we thought we were," says Tammi Pitzen, a program manager for Safe Passage who administers training sessions.

"What would you guess?" News 5 asked Pitzen in response.

"I would think it's maybe a mix of both; I think the people that recognize this is a problem do reach out and have some of the training done, and I think others would prefer to think, ‘it would never happen in my agency,'" Pitzen answered.

The training is free; all groups have to do is ask for it. Safe Passage's website can be reached by clicking here. Lampert says several groups have been and are seeking out the training. It's open to any type of groups that work with kids; churches, sports teams and organizations, schools, child care centers, etc.

News 5 reached out to groups that have undergone the training; none of them were willing to discuss their experiences on camera.

"It (that the groups wouldn't talk to News 5 on camera) didn't really surprise me, no," says Lampert. "I think people want to make sure that their reputation is not under any suspicion, even when there's no reason for it to be."

Lampert says they're happy those groups that have gone through the training and hope more follow their lead.

While many kids are out of school for the summer, some are getting involved with clubs and meeting new adults. At Safe Passage they just want those adults to know what to watch for and how to help.

"They have built a relationship where they trust them and they're telling them things about what happens in their lives they wouldn't tell others," says Pitzen. "It's up to us to keep children safe; if they could protect themselves there would be no child abuse."

For more on Safe Passage and their training, click here.



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