November 2, 2012
Professor John Myers was among an all-star cast of speakers at Penn State's inaugural Child Sexual Abuse Conference Oct. 29-30 at University Park, Pa.
The conference, "Traumatic Impact, Prevention, and Intervention," featured prominent individuals who spoke of their own ordeals as victims, and the leading experts on the subject who spoke on effective preventative measures and improvements in the prosecution of such crimes. Rescued kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart, boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard and Olympic swimmer Margaret Hoelzer were in the former group. Lucy Berliner, director of the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress, David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, and Myers were among the latter.
Myers spoke about the history of child sexual abuse and the positive changes made in legal system over the years. "You can find prosecution of child sexual abuse in colonial times and forward," he said, emphasizing that protecting children from sexual abuse is not a new idea and protection of children has been a focus for centuries.
Myers described an unhealthy "legacy of skepticism" regarding child sexual abuse that existed far too long among professionals and the general public. When women began going to law schools and becoming professors in the 1970s, he said, the literature regarding sexual abuse changed greatly.
Citing the Sixth Amendment right of children to testify in their own cases, Myers discussed the legal improvements for child testimony, noting that children very often provide the strongest and most compelling evidence in their own cases.
More than 400 people attended the conference, a Penn State outreach effort in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal that greatly tarnished the reputation of one of the oldest land-grant universities in the country.