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The Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal cast a spotlight on the dark intersection of youth athletes and sexual abuse. The organizers of a two-day conference in the District beginning today want to help put an end to this vile crime and help its survivors.
During the '70s, Joe Ehrmann, the president of Coach for America, was a tackle for the Baltimore Colts. He later became a Christian minister working with inner-city youth on issues of masculinity and violence. As a high school football coach, he created the approach of "building men for others" and last year on the last page of his second best-selling book, the 63-year-old Joe Ehrman faced his greatest shame.
"I was brutally beaten and raped as a 12-year-old boy," Ehrmann says. "But I never told a single human being. I never even allowed myself to think about it for 47 years."
Ehrmann will be a keynote speaker today at a conference called Safe To Compete: Protecting Child Athletes from Sexual Abuse.
"For 47 years I lived with the shame, with the pain, all the manifesting anger," Ehrmann says. "You know, things like childhood sexual abuse in sports, they exist because of the silence, the secrecy, the sense of shame about that topic. And what I've learned is that I don't have to be ashamed about what happened to me."
Safe To Compete is co-sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and will feature experts such as forensic pediatrician Dr. Sharon Cooper.
"Sometimes when parents are really focused on their child's athletic abilities, particularly if they have the aspiration that their child will become a professional athlete, they can be groomed into allowing more access and less parental supervision, etc., from those who are going to be coaches," Cooper says.
Some of the largest youth serving organizations in the country that are involved in sports will learn about best practices to protect young athletes, says Ehrmann.
"My goal is, you know, at the end of this two-day summit, is that no coach in America would ever say what Joe Paterno said: 'I wish I would have done more,'" says Ehrmann. "Every parent that has a child playing youth sports in America they ought to be able to go that coach or the head of that league and they ought to say whats different? tell me why my child is now safer as a result of the Jerry Sandusky trial."