Campaign focuses on combating sexual assault, child abuse

A movement in Centre County, combining the efforts of several organizations, is working to combat sexual assault and child abuse.

On Friday, on the steps of the Centre County Courthouse, members of local government and law enforcement spent close to an hour to kick off the “Prevention and Protection Are Possible” campaign. It focuses on initiatives individuals, communities and members of the private sector can take to help prevent sexual violence and child abuse.

“It really affects everybody. It’s something that happens all of the time and a lot of the times it’s something that’s hidden. There are hundreds of cases just in our tiny community,” said Rebecca Baughman, family services case manager at the Centre County Youth Service bureau.

Numerous organizations attended the event including the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, representatives of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Centre County, Mount Nittany Health, the Youth Service Bureau, Centre County Children and Youth Services and the YMCA of Centre County.

“Everybody up here does it for one reason and that is for the survivors, so that we can get them justice and help them feel better,” said Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.

Some of those on the front lines working to eliminate child abuse in Centre County offered insight as to what tackling sexual assault and child abuse looks like.

“Some of the children that we work with have been affected by both sexual assault and child abuse,” said Baughman, who knows her job does not end with spreading awareness.

“It’s really great to do this awareness month but it is something that we need to be aware of all of the time and I think it’s something that all of the organizations that have come together today in the name of this great cause do on a daily basis,” Baughman said. Friday marked the first day of Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month.

But her job as a case manager can be hard and sometimes even draining, she said.

“It’s really hard to see people’s pain. I think interacting with people experiencing a moment of crisis is really hard. Just seeing someone at what could be their worst moment and not their best hurts,” Baughman said. “It’s our job to get them back to their best again. We are meeting them at one of the hardest points in their life. It can be really sad and draining.”

But programs like Stewards of Children are working to help individuals receive training to pinpoint victims of both sexual assault and child abuse, getting them the help they need sooner. Stewards of Children “is a prevention training program that teaches adults how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse,” according to the Centre County Women’s Resource Center. According to the center, 1 in 10 children will experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.

“This is an ongoing problem in our society, affecting many children here in Centre County, each and every day. Every child is entitled to be loved,” said Assistant District Attorney Michael Osterberg.

Friday’s event also honored members of the community, including State College police Lt. Chris Fishel andChief Tom King, for the commitment they’ve exhibited in sexual violence and child abuse training and prevention.