As the trial and sentencing of Jerry Sandusky came to an end, I can honestly say that I was relieved. Some form of justice has been done. Moreover, the details of this case have been spread across the front page, the sports pages, magazines, radio, television and through all forms of social media. The image of his face is now seared across my imagination. It would be nice if we could just move on.
But in good conscience, we can't do that.
The courage of these young men to come forward and talk about the details of what was done demands that we match that courage with our own. What does that mean? We can create policies that require that every youth-serving organization establish clear policies to protect children and youth. We can ask every organization working with children and teens if they know how to report an allegation of abuse or a situation that they suspect is abuse. We can also ask what they would do if they see behaviors in an adult or teen that might be abusive as well.
Estimates suggest that each day tens of millions of youth participate in activities that could be made safer by systematic prevention activities. Although many organizations already incorporate prevention efforts, all organizations working with children or teens would benefit from stronger screening policies, regular self-assessment, and greater efforts to empower staff to keep youth safety in the forefront. The Sandusky case also reminds us that we need to do more to educate parents and the public about the everyday role that they can play in creating safer environments for children.
Imagine a world where every parent begins to ask these questions before they send off a son or daughter to an after-school program or summer camp. Imagine if our policymakers began to require these policies. Although this would not make up for the way Sandusky harmed these boys and young men, it would help protect other children from similar situations. It might make it harder for someone to sexually abuse boys or girls.
In the long run, the real tragedy of the Sandusky case will be measured by how we respond to this tragedy. Child sexual abuse is preventable, and there is a role for all of us. Take time today to find out what you can do in your community to make the world safer for all of our children.
Children's Advocacy Center