Penn State’s former assistant football coach faces over 52 counts of sexual abuse against 10 boys over 15 years. I understand these allegations are hard to believe and that an indictment of this magnitude would be a tragedy in any organization; but Penn State, and particularly their football team, is known for all-American values of honor, integrity, and hope.
Jerry Sandusky violated those values if these allegations are true. Penn State may have violated those values as well, because they allegedly failed to report these sexual abuse allegations to authorities.
Ending the story with the firing of key university staff and a quick conviction of Sandusky would be easy. To say that we should always report suspicions of abuse, even if we are unsure of what really happened or whether the actions were sexually abusive, is apparent. But, in the wake of all that has appeared in the media, we must take a deeper look at our own responsibilities.
This tragedy is a wake-up call to every organization that works with youth. I hope that such organizations will educate themselves, the families, and the children about child sexual abuse. I encourage them to learn what they must do to respond to sexual abuse, to use effective screening tools and to put policies into place about appropriate touch and conduct. I hope all of us will learn from Penn State, and to help put effective policies in place before any child is harmed.
The writer, a program facilitator for Darkness to Light, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse, lives in Myrtle Beach.