“We cannot undo what has been done, but we can and must do everything possible to learn from this and ensure it never happens again at Penn State.”
Rodney A. Erickson, President, Penn State University
As reported by the New York Times and other news outlets, Penn State has agreed to pay $59.7 million to 26 sexual abuse victims of the former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky in exchange for an end to their claims against the university, Penn State announced Monday.
Sandusky, 69, is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence. He was convicted in June 2012 of abusing 10 boys, some of them at Penn State sites. All of the children were from disadvantaged homes. Sandusky, using his access to the university football program, had befriended the children and then repeatedly violated them. He was found guilty of 45 of the 48 counts against him.
The scandal led to the dismissal in 2011 of Penn State’s head football coach, Joe Paterno, who died in January 2012. Three former Penn State officials..former president Graham B. Spanier, the retired vice president Gary Schultz and the retired athletic director Tim Curley denied the accusations.
The only conceivable good that can come out of this horrific situation:
Make sure THAT ABUSE LIKE THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN
Look what happens when a child is abused. According to Helpguide.org, a resource website for mental health:
“Aside from the physical damage that sexual abuse can cause, the emotional component is powerful and far-reaching. Sexually abused children are tormented by shame and guilt. They may feel that they are responsible for the abuse or somehow brought it upon themselves. This can lead to self-loathing and sexual problems as they grow older—often either excessive promiscuity or an inability to have intimate relations.
The shame of sexual abuse makes it very difficult for children to come forward. They may worry that others won’t believe them, will be angry with them, or that it will split their family apart. Because of these difficulties, false accusations of sexual abuse are not common, so if a child confides in you, take him or her seriously. Don’t turn a blind eye!
It’s important to recognize that sexual abuse doesn’t always involve body contact. Exposing a child to sexual situations or material is sexually abusive, whether or not touching is involved.
What is even more frightening is that sexual abuse usually occurs at the hands of someone the child knows and should be able to trust—most often close relatives. The website notes that “sexual abuse of boys may be underreported due to shame and stigma”
“The only way to prevent is to report. We must all take responsibility to protect our children”
Warning signs to look for in the sexual abuse of children:
- Trouble walking or sitting.
- Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.
- Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
- Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
- An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14.
- Runs away from home
I know something about child abuse. I’ve worked in the field for 17 years now. I write grant proposals, though, and am not a counselor.
But I can say that the mission of all child welfare services is “to help and protect children.” And across the Chicago metropolitan area, 24 hours a day, agencies receive calls…from teachers, friends, police officers, and abuse victims themselves.
When authorities are involved…children can be protected and lives can move forward.
While the type of violence inflicted on children varies greatly, the common denominator among the calls made to nonprofit agencies, to the National Runaway Hotline, to DCFS, to hospitals and other caring and safe places is that someone cared enough, was daring enough, and had the moral cajones and conviction to make a call to authorities, no matter what the cost to themselves.
Most of these calls are made anonymously.
That said, when a child is in danger, why would protecting your safety be so important? Children are our future. Anything that is done to them now is reflected in the kind of adults they become. And that determines our country’s future. Intervention, as any social services professional will tell you, is the key to stopping destructive cycles of abuse.
Had Sandusky been reported, he could have been brought to justice. By now, he would have been a registered sex offender. But everyone involved protected him, and enabled him to continue his predatory ways.
That is why each school, and every community, needs to step up and enforce laws regarding behavior around children. There are stringent rules surrounding abusive and exploitative behavior throughout the United States that govern educational facilities, nonprofit agencies, park district sports teams, scouting organizations, and other places where children and adults meet. Background checks are mandatory, as are fingerprinting, for all those working with children, at least in Illinois.
Yet, many slip from the cracks, because abuse goes unreported.
So I ask: Is $67 million enough, spread across 20 young adults?
Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it can help with counseling for the dysfunctional relationships and lasting physical trauma of sexual abuse that can result.
There is no price on what a child thinks of himself. Nor on the damage a child who has experienced the pain of abuse can inflict upon others.
The only true compensation will be in raising awareness where abuse exists. Or where it is suspected to exist.
That way, the Jerry Sanduskys of the world will not be able to continue.
Child Abuse Hotlines:
- To get help or report abuse in the US or Canada, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
Child sexual abuse:
1-888-PREVENT (1-888-773-8368) Stop It Now
1-800-656-HOPE Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)