Always report suspected child abuse

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Penn State University. Joe Paterno. Cover-up. Those are captivating names and images – but this is not about them. This is about children, and about the fact that we are not protecting them.

We are not protecting children very well at all. When Darkness to Light: Stewards for Children – a leading child abuse prevention organization – reported last year that there are 39 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse, I was stunned. The Penn State “scandal” is captivating, yet it is not at all significant in the whole picture of child abuse.

It is more common for child abuse and child sexual abuse to not be reported. Children are threatened by perpetrators of abuse to not tell anyone. It takes tremendous courage on the part of child victims to make disclosures about their abuse. Adults owe it to children to be courageous, too.

The “scandals” of authorities going to great efforts to cover up child abuse and child sexual abuse within their organizations are common. Protecting alleged perpetrators – often predators who torture children – is common. We see this every week in our work at Child Enrichment.

PERSONALLY, I HAVE failed to gain any community or societal momentum in confronting the epidemic of child abuse. I do not know why our society has not risen up and crushed this insidious epidemic that is ruining the lives of millions of children and their families in the United States each year.

The two most important things about the Penn State story:

• The graduate assistant. Even though he is the only one who acted and reported, albeit one day later, he is being set up to be the bad guy now, 10 years later. This graduate assistant reported the sexual abuse of that innocent child to his superiors. That is more than most adults ever do in our society. He could have done it better and more effectively, but, he reported it.

• The words and sentiment of Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan: “I think you have the moral responsibility, anyone. Not whether you’re a football coach, or a university president, or the guy sweeping the building. I think you have a moral responsibility to call us.” That is the truth – irrefutable, simple, total and fully functional.

YOUR FEARS – OR whatever you may be thinking that keeps you from calling law enforcement if you know or suspect that a child is being mistreated – is mostly cowardice. If you fail to report, you are helping protect perpetrators of abuse and enabling more child victims to be tortured.

Sex offenders, some of whom have dozens of victims, are very careful and clever about finding opportunities to have access to children, and all parents should be very concerned if any adult – friend, family member, teacher, coach, clergy or other – seeks to spend significant amounts of time alone with your child.

All that matters in this simple decision about reporting is this: Do you suspect that a child is being abused, severely neglected or put at serious risk? If the answer is yes, make the call to the law enforcement office where the child abuse is happening, or to the local office.

Besides reporting suspected abuse and neglect, anyone can help abused children by supporting your local Child Advocacy Center, and Court Appointed Special Advocates. In Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties, you know us as Child Enrichment, and for our work to help child victims recover from abuse, trauma and torture. We work with law enforcement and the district attorney on many cases of child abuse or child sexual abuse. Last year, 695 child abuse victims received the specialized services of Child Enrichment.

CHILD ENRICHMENT is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit charity, and we need donations. We need volunteers, too. You can become a CASA and work with abused children until a safe permanent home can be found. You can also attend a Darkness to Light child abuse prevention program.

Look for a January 2012 presentation at www.ChildEnrichment.org . Also, support the fund-raisers Cookin’ for Kids in March, and Art of Chocolate in the fall.

I beg you to summon the courage to report any suspected child maltreatment, and help save the emotional or physical life of a child today.

(The writer is executive director of Child Enrichment, the Child Advocacy Center and Court-Appointed Special Advocates.)

Comments (12) Add comment
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Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 11/13/11 - 09:48 am
0
0
You don't report child abuse
Unpublished

You don't report child abuse to your superiors..you contact the police. Any educator should know this. I have no sympathy for those that did not tell the police. They are responsible for any children that were molested after that fact!

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 11/13/11 - 10:27 am
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0
I disagree Iwannakno. I put

I disagree Iwannakno. I put myself in a hypothetical position that Joe Paterno was in, and I would not have gone directly to the police on hearsay. What if they investigated and came back with "we didn't find anything"? I would lose my job and very likely get sued.
The appropriate thing for me to do is take it up the chain to HR for action.
That said, if no investigation was forthcoming, it would be incumbent upon me to raise the alarm and force the issue if I felt secure the evidence was reliable. That is where Paterno failed and is culpable; he didn't follow up. He should have had the integrity to resign instead of making them fire him.
The biggest villains here are the administration who didn't go to the police.

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 11/13/11 - 06:29 pm
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bullcrap! you can make the
Unpublished

bullcrap! you can make the allegations without revealing your identity. When it comes to the safety of children the sue defense is crap!

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 11/13/11 - 07:32 pm
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Excellent letter. Here's how

Excellent letter. Here's how I see the chain of villains; Coach Sandusky, graduate student coach, father of grad student, Coach Paterno, President, anyone else who was told of or heard of this situation.

Children and their protection from abuse is everyone's business.

What is wrong with anyone who could walk away from seeing this or hearing about it and doing nothing to help is far beyond my comprehension...

Or perhaps I should say what is right about them
to get a shorter list.

david jennings
571
Points
david jennings 11/13/11 - 08:06 pm
0
0
If I were to walk in on

If I were to walk in on anyone in the act of abusing a child there is no way I would just turn around and walk away, leaving the child to fend for himself. The first thing I would do is intervene and get the child to saftey, then I would definitely seek the support of law enforcement. I guess $40 to50 million a year might make it difficult to do the right thing.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 11/13/11 - 08:23 pm
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david, I seriously doubt you

david, I seriously doubt you would have had to even think; what is inside of you would have poured out without another thought.

Vito45
-2
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Vito45 11/13/11 - 11:57 pm
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"bullcrap! you can make the

"bullcrap! you can make the allegations without revealing your identity. When it comes to the safety of children the sue defense is crap!"

Anonymously? Really? How much water do you think that would hold without witness testimony? And yes, that is why you have HR depts, to manage situations with employees.

Also, I don't believe a smart person would throw their career down the drain and open themselves to lawsuits over hearsay. That would be pretty dumb IMO.

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 11/14/11 - 08:44 am
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0
Then I hope you aren't in a
Unpublished

Then I hope you aren't in a position where a child's safety is concerned. That's why things like this happen. I know of no case where a teacher or doctor reported suspected abuse and was sued. On the contrary they are obligated by law to report it. People that would worry more about themselves than the safety of a child should never hold any position where the safety of a child would come into question!

TruthJusticeFaithHope
216
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TruthJusticeFaithHope 11/14/11 - 03:35 pm
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0
Iwannakno - you really get

Iwannakno - you really get it... Thanks... I read this on a web page for people who help abused children to recover. It is a PLEDGE OF ALLEGIENCE TO CHILDREN, AND TO THEIR PROTECTION. "If I see, hear, suspect, or in any way become aware that a child is being abused, I will not keep silent. I will have the courage to help that child break free of the silence, secrecy, and shame that should never define a child's life."

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 11/14/11 - 03:39 pm
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0
Vito45, you are my bud and I

Vito45, you are my bud and I see your point regarding the police report, however, let's look at it this way... If you are the Head Coach, that sports complex and what transpires there is going to come under your responsibility. Presumably, Paterno did not have fore knowledge that his long time friend Sandusky was a child molester and carrying out his assaults in the Penn State locker room. But ONCE he was given that knowledge, it was his responsibility and obligation to report and follow up to see that this matter was properly handled. Not doing so, makes him no better than his very sick friend. How many more young boys suffered at his hands? Do you see my point?

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 11/14/11 - 03:40 pm
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0
And I also feel confident

And I also feel confident that you would have never walked away from helping that little fellow.

Vito45
-2
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Vito45 11/14/11 - 10:55 pm
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No, I think I was clear on

No, I think I was clear on that. I said that it was incumbent upon Joe to follow up and ensure the issue was addressed by administration, but it was NOT Joe's place or duty to initially report the incident directly to the police on hearsay. He did not witness it, and if I had not witnessed something I won't call police without first going through channels if it was a situation my superiors should know about. HR 101. He is culpable for keeping his mouth shut after the fact, not for keeping it shut to the authorities initially.

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