Child Sexual Abuse: How Foundations and the Paternos are Funding Prevention

Well, here we are again. Another child sexual abuse scandal rocks the nation. Josh Duggar, star of 19 and Counting, sexually abused multiple girls as a teenager. His behavior was reported to the police (his police records are now conveniently destroyed) and the whole thing was kept under wraps in the proud state of Arkansas as the family went on to film a "reality show" touting their ultra-squeaky-clean Christian living.

Key takeaway for youth funders: Invest more in sexual abuse prevention here, there, and everywhere. There are still way too many people involved in ignoring, minimizing, and/or covering up these crimes. 

Before Josh Duggar, another recent case prompted national discussion and awareness about child sexual abusethe trial and conviction of Jerry Sandusky. And that one seems to have spurred an increase in funding that is worth looking at.

But first, a quick review of the backstory: Joe Paterno was head coach for football at Penn State when assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was committing his crimes against children. Shortly after Sandusky's arrest in 2011, Paterno wrote in his journal that he hoped something good could come of it all, implying that he hoped the "silver lining" of the crisis would be increased awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse.

His widow, Sue Paterno, seems to have taken this as a personal call to action. Since 2012, she and other members of the Paterno family, have been working with Stop It Now! to develop Circles of Safety for Higher Education, a program to combat child sexual victimization. With $230,000 in funding from the Paternos, Stop it Now! worked with nearly 150 college staff members from across Pennsylvania's 14 state university systems, training them in child sexual abuse prevention. These 150 then went on to train another 2,000 staff, creating what the university hopes is a safer environment across the system, where children under 18 are less likely to be abused.

The goal of this two-year training effort was to help college staff members recognize the warning signs of sexual abuse of children, and be more aware of what to do in situations that cross boundaries into inappropriate or illegal contact. “If my father had had the training we're now doing, he'd have known what he was dealing with,” Joe Paternos' son, Scott Paterno, recently said. Stop it Now! and the Paterno family would like to see this training brought to college campuses across the country. 

The Paternos are coming along at a good time with their mandate to heighten awareness and battle child sexual abuse. In choosing to work with Stop it Now!, the family is adding to the growing momentum of an organization that has been a front runner in pushing education and awareness about child sexual abuse both nationally and internationally.

Stop it Now! has been around since 1992 and was founded by Fran Henry, a child sexual abuse survivor. At that time, very few child sexual abuse prevention programs existed. Since then, Stop it Now! has made great strides in identifying, refining and sharing effective ways to prevent child sexual abuse before children are harmed.

Where has Stop it Now! gotten its funding in the past? One foundation that has been particularly supportive of Stop it Now! is the Oak Foundation. Founded in 1983, the Oak Foundation is international, with 64 employees in offices in Belize, Bulgaria, India, the U.K., Switzerland, and the U.S. (To apply for funding with the Oak Foundation, you need to first review the Child Abuse program, and send a letter of inquiry.)

The Oak Foundation began funding Stop It Now! in 2008 with an initial grant of $174,460 for "collaborating to strengthen child sexual abuse prevention efforts in low- and middle-income countries." Also in 2008, the Oak Foundation provided a second grant for $349,792, for Stop it Now! to take its knowledge and policy experience on child sexual abuse in the U.S. and bring it to a global audience, establishing an active policy presence internationally on the issue.

In 2010, a larger grant from the foundation to Stop it Now! took aim at both national and global agendas. With $373,573 over 24 months, the goal of this grant was to "improve the Child Sexual Abuse prevention capacity (e.g. knowledge, prevention tools, strategies, professional connections) of family and child- serving professionals in selected low and middle income countries, and at local and state levels in the US."

In 2013, Stop It Now! received $500,000 from the Oak Foundation "to provide core support to build organisational capacity." In other words, time to take this program to scale and get this vital information disseminated nationally and globally. 

The Oak Foundation has clearly put child abuse high on its funding agenda, which is great. We need more foundations willing to take on this issue. Currently, much of the funding for child sexual abuse prevention comes from state or regional community foundations such as Meyer Memorial Trust in Oregon, the California Endowment, and the New York Community Trust.

Alongside these community foundations, a handful of nationally focused private foundations also cover this ground. One private foundation that has put serious money toward this issue is the NoVo Foundation, which gave a total of $5 million between 2009 and 2012 to the Ms. Foundation for Women to support a project called Child Sexual Abuse: A Social Justice Prevention Model. 

Another past funder in this area is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which gave $500,000 in 2011 to the Chicago Children's Advocacy Center to "support the Network of Treatment Providers Collaborative Project in expanding mental health treatment for victims of child sexual abuse." On a smaller scale, the Chicago Children's Advocacy Center also received $50,000 from the VNA Foundation in 2014 for the purpose of addressing "the critical need for victims of child sexual abuse and their families to access mental health services in a timely manner."

The Paternos provide a good example of how to pick up the pieces after a disaster and make something valuable to the community that prevents the problem they were involved in. We can only hope the Duggars will have a similar sense of responsibility, after misrepresenting and hiding their son's problems with child sexual abuse for over a decade.