PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Penn State announced Wednesday that it will host a national child sex-abuse conference this fall, the latest in a series of initiatives designed to raise awareness of the issue and help the university recover from a devastating molestation scandal.
The gathering scheduled for Oct. 29-30 in State College will feature academic and clinical experts on childhood molestation and trauma, as well as remarks by retired boxing champ Sugar Ray Leonard and former kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart, both of whom suffered sexual abuse.
"Penn State has made a commitment to becoming a leader in the research, prevention and treatment of child abuse, and this conference is an important part of that," university President Rodney Erickson said in a statement.
The school's pledge came in the wake of stunning charges against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys.
The case has led Penn State and its supporters to push numerous research and prevention efforts, including:
— Creating the Center for the Protection of Children and donating $1.1 million in football bowl revenues to help fund it;
— Giving $1.5 million in bowl revenues to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, which operates rape crisis centers across the state;
— Raising more than $548,000 from alumni for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which bills itself as the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization;
— Adding blue ribbons to its football uniforms to show support for victims of child abuse. A Sept. 22 game also has been designated a "Blue Out," where fans are encouraged to wear blue and donations will be collected around Beaver Stadium.
Another huge contribution to the cause will come from the $60 million penalty imposed on Penn State by the NCAA. That money, to be paid over five years, will fund programs for the detection, prevention and treatment of child abuse.