Just SAY Something

As the heartbreaking and horrifying story emerges from Penn State, there is little I can say that is new. For each of the nine boys who came forward there are many more who have been silenced. By the time these stories are finally reported, we never know how many actual victims there are. Pedophiles do not stop with one child; if they have access to children, they stop when they are caught. Not any sooner.

New laws need to be passed as to who is a mandated reporter of sexual abuse in children. Everyone should be a mandated reporter. The government’s “if you SEE something, SAY something,” certainly applies here. Ditto if you SENSE something — then SAY something. Sexual abuse is a form of terrorism. We must keep on saying something until something is done. The Penn State story has to help people understand that simply telling the next person up the line is not enough. Joe Paterno is right — he should have done more.

The same education that has been used to inform the public about any epidemic must be used for sexual abuse. Inform people how common it is and to be aware of symptoms in survivors. Inform people how to trust their instincts when something an adult is doing with a child seems strange: a sleepover, a shower, buying gifts. Inform people about what to look for in perpetrators. Not everyone who works with children and gives their time is there to make the world a better place. Predators create access to kids because they are predators. The pedophile priests, coaches and scout leaders go into their fields as trusted mentors, coaches, teachers and leaders, but have one overarching purpose − fulfilling their sexual desires and fantasies with children.

Though it doesn’t help the young victims in this tragic story, Penn State is now on the right track in firing, placing on leave, and accepting resignations of everyone involved. Imagine if the church had laid off Bernard Law, instead of putting him in a nice home in the Vatican; imagine if the Pope had stepped down. Imagine a world with zero tolerance for sexual abuse. Just imagine.