Penn St. offers free abuse counseling

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State is offering free child-abuse counseling services to the alleged victims of former university assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

The university Wednesday described the arrangement with Praesidium Inc., an abuse risk management company, as a way to fulfill a commitment made by school officials after Sandusky was charged in November.

Sandusky is on house arrest awaiting a mid-May trial on charges he sexually abused 10 boys over 15 years. He denies the allegations.

"We're just committed to those who may have suffered abuse," trustee Mark Dambly, who heads the board's newly formed outreach committee, said in a telephone interview. "We hope and ask that those who need help call the number and begin to get counseling as early as possible."

The services are confidential and will be provided by counselors from outside Penn State; the phone number and email address to reach Praesidium in connection with the Penn State case was activated Wednesday. It was not known how much the counseling service will eventually cost the university.

The school was contacting lawyers, believed to be representing potential victims, about the new counseling service, Dambly said. He did not know specifically whether attorneys for the eight known alleged victims had been contacted.

An alumni group, Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, which is backing a slate challenging current trustees, remained critical Wednesday of the trustees' response to the Sandusky case.

"When alumni pledged to honor the victims, we raised $500,000 in a month. When the trustees pledged to honor the victims, they did nothing," spokeswoman Maribeth Schmidt said in a statement.

Trustee chairwoman Karen Peetz said in January that the school would pay for the counseling services. Dambly said it took time for the school to settle on an appropriate counseling provider.

"We at Penn State are committed to helping victims of child abuse in every way we can," president Rodney Erickson said in a statement. "This is an important step in our effort to do so. We hope those in need will use these services."