The horror of Jerry Sandusky's predatory behavior was aggravated by outrage and dismay over the role others at Penn State played by ignoring or squashing attempts to report Sandusky's behavior. An important lesson from the scandal is that Sandusky was finally snared because one courageous mother stepped forward to report that her son had been abused. She made her report to officials at a public school who notified police.
A grand jury investigation followed. More young people were located and eventually summoned the courage to come forward and detail how they had been sexually abused by Sandusky for investigators, a Centre County jury and watching eyes around the globe.
The victims absolutely deserve all the credit in the world for candidly sharing in graphic detail what happened to them. But the unsung hero is the unidentified mom who blew the whistle.
The Sandusky case illustrates what experts assert: that while there are the rare and shocking stranger-danger crimes, misplaced trust is more often a factor in sexual assault.
Experts say that 1-in-4 girls and 1-in-6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Seventy percent of all sexual assault involves victims who are juveniles.
Parents may be in the best position to intervene and help their children understand what to do when a sexual predator begins to act inappropriately. It is important to understand that there may be no physical indications of abuse. Emotional or psychological changes may be the more tell-tale clues. Abusers often try to shame their victims into silence. Young people should be given the information to recognize when they are being mistreated and assured that they should report any misconduct as soon as possible.
We should make everyone a mandatory reporter when it comes to sexual abuse to eliminate uncertainty about who must report abuse and how they should do it. Telling a supervisor at work does not cut it.
Everyone ought to call the ChildLine hotline at 800-932-0313 when abuse is suspected. The state should work aggressively to ensure that reports of suspected abuse are investigated promptly and thoroughly.
Penn State officials can now work to repair their image and seek to resolve whatever lingering civil claims will follow in the wake of Sandusky's trial.
The most effective reform could take place in the home: If parents use the scandal as a cautionary tale about the importance of recognizing and reporting abuse as quickly as possible.