Updated 01/19/2012 11:01 PM
McMahon/Ryan creates dialogue about child sexual abuse
One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. That's just one of many shocking statistics when it comes to abuse. Thursday the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center hosted a Town Hall Meeting on preventing child abuse in youth athletics. They started planning the event after allegations of sexual abuse came out against a Penn State Football coach. As our Katie Gibas reports, organizers hope Thursday's discussion will open a dialogue about sexual assault in the community and get survivors the help they need.
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ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- Dan Leonard was sexually abused by his football coach from when he was 11-years-old until he was 13.
"I didn't tell a soul for 25 years, from the ages of 13 to 38, I never told a soul and I never thought I would. I thought I would go to my grave with that secret," said Leonard.
But he did break his silence after receiving counseling and now he's an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, sharing his story to help people know they don't have to go through things alone.
"I was terribly afraid of what people would think of me. I thought people would disown me. I thought my own family would disown me. I thought I had done something wrong. When in fact I hadn't done anything. It was done to me," said Leonard.
Leonard was a panelist at the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center's Town Hall Meeting Thursday. The goal was to start a dialogue about child sexual abuse to get survivors the help they need and prevent further abuse.
Leonard said, "Education can be an answer to a lot of social ills. We have to educate people. We have to have people talking about this. We have to have people when they see something amiss, they have to speak up."
Experts remind parents to talk with their families about appropriate child-adult contact and to observe their kids relationships with adults.
"If someone suspects the child has been abuse or a child has disclosed, the most important thing is to support that child and believe that child, and hopefully by doing that, the child will get the help they need, whether it be mental help or the support from that team," said Julie Cecile, the Executive Director of the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center.
Experts remind parents that help is just a phone call away.
To Report Suspected Child Abuse:
If a child is in immediate danger, Call 911
Onondaga County Hotline: 315-422-9701
New York State Hotline: 800-342-3720