In the Wake of Jerry Sandusky To prevent child abuse, something has to change. So why won't it?
BY Barry Nolan 6/25/2012
After the verdict came down in the Jerry Sandusky case, Linda Kelly, the Pennsylvania State Attorney General, stood before the assembled press and said something very important. She said: “One of the recurring themes of the witness’ testimony was … ‘Who would believe a kid?’”
Yes indeed, who would take the word of a mere child over that of a beloved coach like Jerry Sandusky about sexual abuse? Even though we know that such terrible crimes are far too common and the numbers are staggering, we can’t believe it. So, from 2005 to 2006 about 135,300 children were sexually abused.
Who would take the word of a child against a respected adult even though we know that in up to 93 percent of the time, the child knows his abuser and as many as 47 percent of the perpetrators are family members.
Who would take the word of a child even though in the vast majority of cases the only witness to child sex abuse is the child?
The ugly truth about child sexual abuse is that we really don’t want to hear about it. And far too much of it happens after an initial complaint about a perpetrator has been made and it’s not investigated thoroughly.
Take the tragic sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, and just imagine how things could have been different if there had been real listening and forceful action early on. There were 10,667 complaints of sexual abuse against 4,392 priests and deacons between 1950 and 2002 and yet no serious or thorough investigation took place. And so the abuse was allowed to continue. Until the Globe’s Pulitzer Prize winning series compelled self-examination and change....
The first child to make a complaint in the Sandusky case came forward 14 years ago. But who was going to believe a kid over Jerry Sandusky? So the complaint was not thoroughly investigated and, tragically, the abuse continued....
Back in 1993, most people simply didn’t want to believe the awful things a kid had to say about what Jackson did behind closed doors. After all, Michael Jackson was a lavishly talented and beloved public figure. But Dimond, and a few others, listened carefully and pursued leads and looked at the evidence. And the awful truth began to come out. The boy in that case would eventually accept a settlement from Jackson that was widely reported to be in the range of $20 million.
I asked her for her thoughts on the bigger picture, the Sandusky case, the scandal in the church, and the Jackson matter. Here is part of what she sent me in an e-mail:
“Pedophiles are really the very person you think they could never be. They are the most charming, personable, charitable, and kid-friendly people you would ever want to meet. They pay their taxes, they go to church, they cloak themselves in acts of charity and they say they just want to help you raise your child by being a positive influence in their lives … Too often detectives believe the perpetrator’s version of events and they are freed to violate again.”