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Penn State to Host Child-Abuse-Prevention Conference

In the wake of a child-sex-abuse scandal involving a former assistant football coach, Pennsylvania State University will host a two-day conference in late October on preventing sexual abuse, the university announced Wednesday.

The Child Sexual Abuse Conference: Traumatic Impact, Prevention, and Intervention, to be held on Oct. 29 and 30, will gather national experts on child abuse to continue raising awareness of the issue.

Professional boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and former kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart, who both suffered sexual abuse when they were younger, will serve as featured speakers at the event.

The conference "promises to address challenging issues while sharing what is known about effective research-based interventions that have been shown to help children and their families recover from the trauma of abuse and move forward with hope in their lives" said Penn State President Rodney Erickson in a statement.

Speakers on the first day will discuss the developmental impact of sexual abuse on young children, older children, and teenagers, according to the agenda listed on the conference's website. Intervention and prevention strategies will be the main subjects on day two.

Penn State students can register for the conference for a $45 fee, while all others face a $145 registration fee.

Ex-assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted in June of 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys. As a result of the scandal, the school received "unprecedented" penalties from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, including a four-year postseason ban and $60 million fine against the football program.

Since the Sandusky case broke last November, Penn State donated $1.1 million toward the creation of the Center for the Protection of Children, raised more than a half-million dollars for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, and gave $1.5 million to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, according to the Associated Press.

"What happened at Penn State could—and does—happen in other communities across the country," said Erickson, "and we hope that this conference will be a catalyst for furthering the knowledge that can lead to a safer environment for children in our nation and around the world."

In other Penn State news: The school has been warned that the Sandusky scandal put the university's academic accreditation status "in jeopardy," according to the Wall Street Journal.

In a letter dated Aug. 8, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education informed the school that it could lose its accreditation status based on the NCAA sanctions and findings from former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh's damning report, the WSJ reports.

However, national experts told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the school was unlikely to lose its accredited status, with the president of the American Council on Education calling it "unthinkable."

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