Advocate outlines ways to help 'hidden victims' of abuse

UNIVERSITY  PARK, Pa. -- An influential advocate for victims of child abuse said there have been significant gains; however, two in three victims are still suffering in silence.

Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children and founding chairman of its sister organization the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, spoke Monday (Oct. 29) at Penn State's Child Sexual Abuse Conference, outlining ways that communities can assist “the hidden victims.”

“Each one of you has power and influence,” he said to the audience at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel. “I've always believed the old John F. Kennedy line that 'One person can make a difference and everyone should try.' I urge you to make a difference in your community. Inform, educate, motivate and mobilize others.”

Allen said confirmed cases of abuse have declined, reporting has increased, law enforcement and social workers have been better trained, and more abusers are being brought to justice. However, “children are still being victimized in startling numbers.”

Allen called the audience to action, urging:

-- That myths about abusers be dispelled. In reality, victims are often abused by someone they know, the majority of abusers aren't “evil looking” and many seek legitimate access to victims, winning “confidences through friendship and kindness.”

-- That every health care worker, worldwide, be trained to recognize abuse and respond.

-- Though “not a panacea,” mandatory background checks can root out offenders.

-- Parents must empower children with self-esteem and confidence, letting them know they have power and the right to say no.

-- That states adopt mandatory reporting measures among officials who may suspect abuse.

-- That citizens urge local officials to set up child advocacy centers in their community.

To view Allen's talk, go to

Last Updated March 08, 2013