Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative

Child Sexual Abuse is a Public Health Problem in Pennsylvania

Child sexual abuse (CSA) affects an average of 2,300 children in Pennsylvania each year. Children who experience CSA are at risk for a lifetime of adverse outcomes including poor physical and mental health, poor interpersonal relationships, and increase the potential for future victimization. The prevention of CSA is complex and, we believe, requires the effort of multiple sectors within a community. CSA is an important public health priority, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is in a unique position to serve as a leader in CSA prevention.

A Partnership is Formed

In 2015, an agreement was reached to direct $60 million in monetary penalties levied on the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) and PSU. Of that funding, $12 million was redirected to Child Maltreatment Solutions Network (CMSN) at PSU, which was created in 2012 to “advance the University’s academic mission of research, education and service regarding child maltreatment,” and $48 million was directed to PCCD to be distributed pursuant to Act 1 of 2013, known as the “Endowment Act.” PCCD directed the Children’s Advocacy Center Advisory Committee (CACAC), as supported by the staff of the Office of Research and Child Advocacy (ORCA), to provide advice and counsel on the direction of these funds. The CACAC then voted to create a Prevention Subcommittee to develop a funding announcement for programs or projects preventing CSA.

The Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative

The Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative (SHCI) is the resultant cooperative project between the CMSN and PCCD. The SHCI PSU team, is led by Dr. Jennie Noll (Project Co-Investigator; Director, CMSN) and Dr. Kate Guastaferro (Project Co-Investigator), consists of Kathleen Zadzora, M.S. (Implementation Coordinator), Jonathan Reader, M.S. (Graduate Assistant), and a number of undergraduate students. The PCCD team consists of Kirsten Kenyon (Director, Office of Research Evaluation and Strategic Policy Development), Christina Cosgrove (Grant Administrator), and Lindsay Vaughn (Executive Policy Manager).

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting the participating counties

Pennsylvania counties selected to participate in SHCI through a competitive application process include Bucks, Chester, Somerset-Cambria (two counties forming a single applicant), and York. This collaborative prevention effort, years in the making, seeks to prevent CSA across the Commonwealth using the best evidence-based programs and methodologies available.

Although the Initiative is only active in a handful of counties presently, the long-term goal is to scale up the effort across the Commonwealth.