Sandusky son: Reporting child sex abuse should be mandatory
SIOUX FALLS (AP) — One of the adopted sons of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky told a group of educators, health care professionals, law enforcement officials and others gathered Thursday in Sioux Falls that more people should be required by law to report to authorities suspected cases of child sexual abuse.
The remarks from Matthew Sandusky came during an annual conference that explores issues of justice, well-being and safety in South Dakota. The focus of this year's conference is child sexual abuse.
Sandusky started a foundation in 2014 to raise awareness about child sexual abuse in local communities after disclosing that his adopted father subjected him to a range of sexual abuse.
"A child's protection should not rely on a person's job or place of employment. For me, every single person, every single person, should be a mandated reporter," Sandusky said. "If you see something happening to a child, if you think you know something happening to a child, then you have to report it."
In South Dakota, physicians, mental health professionals, teachers and law enforcement officials are among those who are mandated by law to report to authorities instances where they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected.
South Dakota U.S. Attorney Randolph Seiler said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in four girls and one in six boys in the U.S. are abused before they reach the age of 18. Seiler said statistics show that 4,000 children are being sexually abused in the state every year.
"If you woke up tomorrow and the headline was that 4,000 children in South Dakota were infected with some kind of contagious disease, the entire state would be up in arms, and that's how many children are being sexually abused," Seiler told The Associated Press during the conference sponsored by his office, Avera Health and Children's Home Society. "We have to address this."
Seiler added that Matthew Sandusky's case shows that whether in "Pennsylvania with a very famous father" or in small town South Dakota, predators use the same approach "to groom individuals and then proceed with sexually abusing them."
Jerry Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys and is serving a 30- to 60-year prison term. The former coach, who has filed an appeal, has not been charged with abusing Matthew Sandusky.
On Thursday, Matthew Sandusky told the audience that he decided to speak up about his own abuse after he sat through courtroom testimony by a young man during his adoptive father's trial.
"I've been called a liar. I've been called every name in the book. ... I've faced it all," he said. "I hope to empower other survivors to understand that the best message you can get is that it doesn't matter, what other people think does not matter. The most important thing you can do is speak your truth."
Matthew Sandusky is among those who have shared $60 million in civil settlements by Penn State.