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Penn State holds child abuse prevention conference

Still picking up the pieces after the Jerry Sandusky molestation scandal, Penn State will hold a three-day conference on preventing child abuse. Notable participants will include Elizabeth Smart and Sugar Ray Leonard.

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Longtime Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was fired during the scandal, on grounds he too failed to stop Sandusky. Paterno died in January of lung cancer.

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Dr. Kate Staley, a member of Penn State's Justice Center for Research and lead organizer of the conference, said the event was not meant to be an attempt by the university to restore its name.

"The last thing I would have done is put on a PR stunt," Staley said.

She said the conference was intended to be "substantive and educational and awareness-raising."

Attendees from 27 states include police officers, preschool teachers and child sex abuse experts as well as people who may not deal with the issue on a regular basis.

Staley said the topic made people very uncomfortable and reluctant to talk about it.

"One of the things this conference is trying to do is end that silence," she said.

Another speaker at the event is swimmer Margaret Hoelzer, a two-time Olympian who won two silver medals and a bronze in 2008. She was the victim of abuse by a friend's father when she was 5 years old.

"This is certainly not something that anyone needs to go through alone," Hoelzer said. "Keep talking and keep talking until you find someone that believes you."

She added that victims could become victors, "whether that's as a CEO or an Olympian or in a happy relationship."

"You can be successful. Horrible things happen in life, but you can overcome them and be successful," Hoelzer said.

Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Ellen Wulfhorst and Peter Cooney

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