News | Published May 9, 2012

Shattering the secrets of child sexual abuse

"The allegations of child sexual abuse against Jerry Sandusky brought instant, almost overwhelming public attention to the very important - but previously secretive - topic of child sexual abuse," said Patricia Barthalow Koch, PhD, director of the Pennsylvania Learning Academy for Sexuality Education (PLASE), professor of biobehavioral health, and faculty affiliate in nursing at The Pennsylvania State University. "People became more aware of and concerned about this subject but may not necessarily be clear about how to recognize, report and help victims of child sexual abuse. Being informed is a key to prevention and effective treatment, while denial and lack of education are very costly to children, families and the community."

To help provide more knowledge on this topic, Dr. Koch will be presenting "Shattering the Secrets of Child Sexual Abuse" on Thursday, May 17, in the Galen and Nancy Dreibelbis Auditorium (entrance D) of Mount Nittany Medical Center, State College.

The talk is part of the Family Medicine Seminar Series sponsored by Mount Nittany Medical Center in collaboration with Penn State College of Medicine's Department of Family and Community Medicine.

The presentation will help participants:

  • Identify who should report suspected child sexual abuse
  • Determine appropriate ways to identify child sexual abuse
  • Learn about options for helping the victims of child sexual abuse
  • Describe specific strategies for preventing child sexual abuse

"Any person, no matter their age, who has been sexually abused or assaulted should receive help from a trained professional. With love, support and professional help, healing can occur," said Koch. "However, every child sexual abuse incident needs to be reported in order for healing to occur, which is why it is so vital to learn more about the signs of child sexual abuse, as well as to understand the best way to report it and deal with it. Further, we want to make every effort to prevent it from occurring."

Everyone is responsible for reporting any suspicion of child sexual abuse - no one is required to be certain in order to make a report, according to Koch. A report can be made by calling the PA Department of Public Welfare Childline at 800.932.0313, or by calling Centre County's Office of Children and Youth Services at 814.355.6755.

All community members or medical professionals can attend the presentation, which will begin with a buffet dinner at 6 pm, followed by the evening's lecture at 6:30 pm. The activity has been approved for American Medical Association (AMA) Physician's Recognition Award (PRA) Category 1 credit. The cost to attend the presentation varies based on several factors (whether an attendee works in the medical field, for example).

To register, or for more information on the seminar or upcoming seminars, call 814.234.6738, or email