Old Boys network trumps Child Protection in Sandusky Pedophilia case

Adults opted to protect athletics rather than children in this sad case. Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, November 9, 2011―There are scumbags and there are low lifes; there are the ‘sickos’ who sodomize poor little boys and then there is the sorry excuse for the men who cover up for them.

They all lose in the court of public opinion.

Enter Exhibit A: Sixty-seven year old former defensive coordinator for Penn State University’s football program, Jerry Sandusky. The Pennsylvania State Attorney charged Sandusky with 40 counts of sexual assault against minors over a 15 year period.

Introduce Accomplice A: Joe Paterno, the famed long-time coach of the PSU Nittany Lions, who learned of an incident of child abuse in 2002. That incident, Sandusky having sex with children who lived at a home for disadvantaged troubled boys, was one of three witnessed by others. Sandusky and his wife Dottie founded the home, called Second Life, in 1977.

Rather than turn Sandusky in to authorities, severing ties with him, behaving like the upstanding moral person his fans and admirers always thought he was, and protecting what would become possibly dozens more victims of child sexual abuse, Joe Paterno opted to look the other way and to do the minimum legally required - report the incident up the university chain of command.

A man of his stature at PSU had the power to do more, but he chose not to.

Jerry Sandusky is arrested after the 2002 sexual assault of a 10 year old in a Penn State shower. Andy Colwell/The Patriot-News via Associated Press

 

Paterno did nothing morally appropriate to protect any of the eight boys listed in the document the government filed against Sandusky, escpecially those who were abused after the earlier incidents.

Apparently, he feared tarnishing the school’s reputation and valued that over protecting innocent boys.

Introduce Accomplice B & C: Tim Curly, Pennsylvania State Athletic director and Gary Schultz, VP for Finance and Business, both were indicted this week, forced to resign their positions at PSU and turn themselves in to police because they each learned of a disturbing 2002 sexual encounter between Sandusky and a 10 year old boy in the shower in PSU athletic facilities. Curly and Schultz also chose the path of not using their senses and sensibilities and compassion for innocent children, deciding instead to protect the old boys’ covenant and look out for their own.

They each lied before a grand jury, testifying under oath that Sandusky was only “horsing around” with the boy.

Look out for your ole’ boy. Damn the children. It seems they were fine with Sandusky abusing boys, just not on PSU property after that incident. Why else adopt that policy in lieu of reporting him to police, as prosecutors allege?

“How can we expect kids to have the courage to report abuse when adults can’t even report and many of them are mandated reporters?” asked Sally Berenzweig, MEd, MA and Cherie Benjoseph, LCSW, co-founders of a nonprofit group KidSafe Foundation. The KidSafe Foundation, which provides prevention education to children and adults to reduce abuse bullying and increase online safety, penned a strongly worded reaction.

The real losers in this sick, twisted case of savagery and blinders are the young men, already disadvantaged by their lives, only to be dealt a real sucker punch after being accepted into what they thought was a warm, nurturing home.  

A home set up by a predatory pedophile.

Parents usually give their kids instructions to stay away from people they don’t know, but strangers do not perpetuate most sexual abuse cases. 

“Child sexual abuse cases unfortunately usually involve family members, friends of family, neighbors or other persons in a position of trust,” confirms DC-based attorney, Debbie Hines, who has prosecuted sexual abuse cases in the past.

And, alas, this case also reminds us that children in foster homes and in the child welfare system are sometimes more susceptible to running into a predator or being subjected to sexual abuse at some point in their young lives than other children. They are the most vulnerable and by consequence, the ripest to be plucked by child-hunters like Sandusky.

Where do parents wanting to protect their children fit into all of this?

It seems the deck may be stacked against parents, many of whom lack the tools, knowledge or awareness of how to raise children capable of fending off pedophiles and predators. It’s not like sexual abuse is an easy topic to broach with a young child, and compounding these challenges is the fact that the government does not always do an adequate job enforcing policies put in place to protect children from sexual predators.

In the history of this case, Sandusky admitted to showering with a boy in 1998, yet he was permitted to keep his boys’ home open after that incident and to continue to have intimate access to the children in that home. Where were the authorities to set the standards that say men charged with sex crimes against minors should stay far away from them?

The betrayal of the system is jarring.

Then for those parents whose children wound up in alternative care, could there be things they could have done to prevent the need for their children to end up in such a home in the first place as a last alternative? It’s an uphill battle for parents.

Dr. Brenda Schaefer, author and child expert, offered tips for parents:

  1. Educate yourself and child. 88.5% of sex offenders know their victim. Eight to 10% of boys, a conservative number as boys often do not talk about or think it is normal exploring, 12-25% of girls experience sexual abuse prior to 18. Testosterone in boys increases dramatically from onset of puberty-1000% and he has 5 to 7 surges of testosterone in a day making him vulnerable to sexual predators.
  2. Ensure safety by knowing whom a child is with especially on trips or overnights and stay involved in their activities.
  3. Avoid any one person having unsupervised time with your child. Notice if they invite child to their home or have a special interest in children of either sex. Do background checks on neighbors and friends that want to spend time with your child.
  4. Notice changes in child’s behavior or mood after spending time with a specific adult. There is some research showing that brain alterations may occur. Sex abuse can lead to over-excitation of the emotional brain and affect the memory part of the brain. The child can begin to dissociate as it has to separate the two realities.
  5. Develop a solid, trusting and fun relationship with your child. Know your child’s vulnerabilities such as low esteem, depression, isolation, etc and get professional help when indicated. Perpetrators feed off of them.
  6. Know how perpetrators operate. Predators are often in a power position and have control over the child psychologically. They choose their victim consciously and look for the most vulnerable. They groom the child/adolescent with specific actions intended to form an emotional friendship. They flatter, give special attention to, reward with gifts, make you feel special, share emotional intimacy’s, ask you to keep secrets, permit you to do things that are against the rules-all to develop a false sense of trust and bonding.
  7. As a parent, be alert and if you suspect abuse be proactive as the child will often deny the abuse. The long-term affects of sex abuse can be devastating.

The Penn State University case reveals that parents cannot always rely on a child’s peer, the child or an adult reporting abuse incidents when they witness them with their own eyes so they are probably better off doing what they can to best to prepare their children against becoming victims.

As for Paterno, Sandusky and the irresponsible members of the PSU athletic staff who let a predator stay on the prowl, knowing he had a nestful of victims, who wants to hear anything about innocent until proven guilty when there are eyewitnesses to forcible sodomy of young children in play?

What good is a stellar record as a head coach when you haven’t the moral compass to do everything in your power to step in and protect innocent children?

Doing the minimum is never acceptable. Paterno has never half-done anything else in his life but when it comes to looking out for innocent children his standards drop.

In the court of public opinion, the men involved in the Penn State sexual abuse cover up scandal might as well back up their immoral selves and head out of town. On second thought, given all the supporters that gathered outside Joe Paterno’s home on the second day the story broke, perhaps he ought to stay right there in that pretend Camelot in Pennsylvania. After all, “Happy Valley” sounds like a good name for a land of make believe.

In the real world, decent people look out for and protect those most vulnerable.

God save those child victims who look up to Penn State, admire State College and thought they needed to succumb to rape by a grown man in order to continue to attend games in Beaver Stadium as Sandusky allegedly led one poor victim to believe.

Read more Politics of Raising Children in The Communities at the Washington Times. Follow Jeneba Ghatt at @JenebaSpeaks. Her work can also be read at Jeneba Speaks and Politic365. She also co-hosts a Blog Talk Radio show called Right of Black which tackles current events and politics from a perspective not often seen in the mainstream media.


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Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt is a former journalist turned lawyer turned citizen journalist. Currently, she manages her boutique communications law firm, where she has represented small businesses and nationally-recognized civil and consumer rights organizations before the United States Supreme Court, federal courts and the FCC. She also covers the White House and US Congress for the online news site Politic365.com while authoring her own influential blog JenebaSpeaks.com which is frequently accessed by top policy makers and think tanks, and the investment community. JenebaSpeaks.com focuses on the intersection of politics and technology and reports on policies and rules in the communications and tech sector.
 
Before opening her law firm, The Ghatt Law Group, which was the first communications firm owned by women and minorities, Jeneba regulated Comcast and Starpower as the Assistant General Counsel for the District of Columbia's Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, and at one point was the only communications regulatory attorney in the entire city. She is founding member and policy chair for a new trade association, the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs and provides advice and counsel to new businesses in the tech industry, particularly small businesses owned by women and minorities.

Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, but raised in the United States by her Catholic mom and Muslim dad, she started her college career creating web content for one of the earliest websites in history while working part time for the University of Maryland's Office of Technology. Following her graduation from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, she founded and co-wrote one of the earliest blogs and since then has gone on to found and author six different widely read and influential blogs. She was one of only 22 writers and bloggers to attend the first White House summit for African American media.
 
She holds a Certificate in Communications Law Studies from Catholic; a Juris Doctor from there as well, and a Master of Law in advocacy degree from the Georgetown University Law Center where she first taught and lectured as a Staff Attorney and Graduate fellow at that law school's Institute for Public Representation. She later went on to teach Media Law at the University of Maryland at College Park and guest lecture at Yale Law School and Penn State University, College of Telecommunications. She is well skilled and versed with social media and manages several Twitter, Facebook, Linked In accounts and groups.
 
She sits on the board of several non profits and trade associations.

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