Tim Lewis: Penn State Scandal Loses Focus on Child Victims

Today’s news seems to be focusing on yet another sports’ icon falling from grace. The underlying issue is the continued perpetration of sex crimes on children by adults. This is more important than the focus on protecting the institution who employees the suspect.

Mr. Joe Paterno is a historic figure, but I feel he still has responsibilities, as we all do, to protect children from abuse. Reporting the suspected abuse to proper authorities, is something we must be willing to do. As leaders, as adults, we must not shirk those responsibilities.

This “Penn State scandal” reminds me just how often children are sexually abused, and how infrequently adults are ready, willing and able to report this abuse. Statistics show over and over again that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday. The victims are compromised by adults who leverage their power on child victims to intimidate and scare them to not report the incident. These are not trivial actions taken by perpetrators with no consequences to the victims. The assaults cause both physical and mental harm to the victims; to children. These attacks carry on into the victim’s adult life, creating relationship and social issues for the victim and their families.

Having the institution choose their own reputation, above the safety of children, is a pathetic response and shows very poor decision making.

Allegedly a credible source witnessed inappropriate sexual contact between one of Mr. Paterno’s coaching staff and a minor child. This was no small matter! An adult sexually abusing a child is not acceptable! We all have an obligation to report such conduct so that the children can be protected and helped to recover from the assault. Victims of crime, specifically sex crimes, are so very vulnerable and the damage to their mental health stays with the victims for the rest of their lives. It is crucial that they receive immediate care to reduce the effects of this trauma.

Reporting abuse to the police or social services immediately, so that it could be fairly investigated, would have protected how many other victims from being assaulted by Coach Sandusky?

Just taking it to the Athletic Director and letting the institution control the fate of the victim and allowing Mr. Sandusky continued access to children is not acceptable. It shows an elitist attitude that chooses to protect and cover for its own, rather then look out for what is best for the community, what is best for a child. In this case, and has been far too often, the organization that is covering up the sex abuse, is charged with the care and betterment of youth and society. We must learn from the continued mistakes of these institutions and protect our children.

Tim Lewis
Board Chair
Blue Sky Bridge

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