The disgusting acts and cover up at Penn State have created a great amount of media attention surrounding the legacy of now disgraced coach Joe Paterno and other university officials who decided that protecting their precious football program was more important than turning in a sexual predator. In my view this scandal has failed to create the national dialogue I was hoping for with regards to sexual abuse, especially with regards to young children.
The reality is that within our own communities, we have many Penn State like situations in which young people are sexually abused, in many cases by their own family, close friends, and other associates only to see people engage in a systematic “cover up”. Many families, to this day have huge secrets in which children were or still are sexually abused but the issue is largely ignored. Cases of sexual abuse are often not reported due to a number of reasons including shame, fear of child welfare services taking children away, and also fear of confronting the abuser.
The number of of individuals who have been violated sexually during their youth is alarming and many of the victims still see their abusers every day or at family functions. The victims continue to struggle with the stress and shame by being abused while upset at family members who let it happen or have done nothing after the fact but pretend like the situation never existed. You have many individuals as adults now who continue to struggle with low self-esteem, no trust in others, and poor relationships as a direct result of the events of their past.
While this is a problem around the world, we cannot ignore that it is a large issue, specifically within our community. This issue cannot continue to be ignored and more actions must be taken to protect our children from child predators. We must be mindful of who we leave our children alone with and what type of individuals we bring into our families. Most importantly, if something does happen to our children, we must do all we can to ensure it does not become an ongoing situation and the abuser is not allowed off the hook.
Penn State is the perfect example of what NOT to do in a situation of sexual abuse and unfortunately we have too many individuals who remain silent in our own community. They remain silent just like the administrators at the university.
Sometimes doing the right thing is not popular or comfortable but it must be done to save our children.