Three Critical Lessons from the Penn State and Syracuse Sex Abuse Scandals
We can keep kids safer if we know the facts about child abuse
Posted Dec 01, 2011
These important lessons include (1) sex offenders come in all shapes and sizes and are likely well known to their victims, (2) regardless of the institution, we can expect a certain small number of men to sexually engage with minors (including teens) when given the opportunity to do so, and (3) any institution caught in a child sexual abuse scandal will likely try to protect the institution long before attending to the needs of victims.
Somehow we tend to think of sex offenders as creepy strangers who are unknown to their victims. This situation is very rare but typically makes a great deal of press when it occurs. The most likely person to sexually violate a minor child is a family member such as a step-father, uncle, or often an older brother or cousin. After that, teachers, sport coaches, choir directors, clergy, scout leaders, camp counselors, and others who are entrusted with the care and supervision of youth may be offenders. This is very important to remember. Most sex offenders are as close as the child's own home, school, and practice field.
Finally, institutions who are caught in these scandals almost always work first to protect the good name of the institution trying to avoid scandal and embarrassment before contacting law enforcement and attending to the needs of the victims. Often leaders of these institutions are in denial in that they frequently can't believe that one of their valued orgnaizational members (and even well thought of leaders) could possibly violate a child or teen.
By the way, if you are interested in the research in this area you might check out the work of David Finklehor at the University of New Hampshire, Charol Shakeshaft at Virginia Cvommonwealth University, Karen Terry at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Nancy Kellog at the University of Texas to get started.
So, what do you think? What have you learned from the Penn State and Syracuse stories?