As I write this, retired Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky has not been convicted of child molestation – yet. Personally, I believe he is guilty. There appears to be abundant evidence in the case to convict him.
What is astounding to me is that the general public seems to find this so unbelievable, as in: It is so horrible; how could this happen? Yes, it is horrible, but, please do not believe that it is unusual or rare. Child sexual abuse is common. Statistically, one in four girls and one in six boys have been sexually abused by age 18 in the United States.
The media is so predictable – and I must say unethically theatrical – when it comes to a case such as Sandusky’s. I watched three cable news channels, and laughed out loud at the men and women who were feigning disgust and outrage in one breath and moving on to another story about ice cream or banning big sodas in the next breath.
ONE NEWSWOMAN actually stated that the testimony given Wednesday was too horrible to be repeated. Really? With all of the filth and gore and murder out there, testimony about someone being sexually abused as a child is too horrible to be repeated? Is that part of the reason why our society cannot reduce or stop child sexual abuse? Why can’t we talk about this?
And why are some newspapers publishing this story within the sports pages? It is not a sports story.
One cable newsman stated
that graduate assistant coach Mike McCreary is the man who brought Penn State to its knees and prematurely ended the career of legendary head coach Joe Paterno.
Don’t blame Penn State or Joe Paterno. Almost all of us are failing to protect children.
The real story is about children, and the fact is 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. Thirty-nine million! The Penn State “story” is captivating, yet it is not at all significant in the entire 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. Pay attention, listen, observe, ask questions and be ready to believe what you hear or see.
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 Inc.
The fears that people experience about reporting suspected child sexual abuse must be addressed.
Whatever you think 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 to protect perpetrators of abuse, and enabling more child victims to be abused and tortured.
Sex offenders, some of whom have dozens of victims, are mostly 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.
DO YOU SUSPECT that a child is being abused, severely neglected or put at serious risk? If the answer is yes, you must make the call to the law enforcement office in the area that the abuse is happening.
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. With help, child victims recover.
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 also can attend a Darkness to Light child abuse prevention program. View a January 2012 video on www.ChildEnrichment.org. Support fund-raisers such as Cookin’ for Kids each year in March, and Art of Chocolate on Oct. 12.
I beg you to summon the courage to report any suspected child maltreatment, and by doing so, you may help save the emotional or physical life of a child today. Your help is needed, and you are capable.
(The writer is executive director of Child Enrichment Inc., the Child Advocacy Center and Court Appointed Special Advocates.)