Monday, December 19, 2011

What Can We Do About It?

I have been out of touch for the last couple of days as I have been in transit from Boston to Buenos Aires for a winter vacation. However, while waiting for my flight to leave Dulles International Airport in Washington, I did catch one of the local T.V. stations airing endless commentaries of the Penn State horror. And I use that word intentional, as I see the alleged crime of child sexual abuse as horrible, the accused perpetrators as horrible and the collusion of silence around the crime as horrible.  And what are we to do about it?

This perpetration has been going on for centuries, even with all kinds of prohibitions, punishments and social stigmas associated with the crime, it continues.  The ancient Hammurabi Code, from Babylon, almost 4,000 years old, admonished the crime, as did the Ancient Jewish laws.  And here we are, approaching 2012, facing the same phenomenon, knowing full well the serious and toxic toll the crime takes on the victims, their families, other witnesses and the perpetrators. 

When I ask, “What Can we do about it?” I look for ways we all can take some responsibility in preventing it from happening and from stopping it if it has already started.  One specific action we can take is to be fully trained and sensitive to those signs that suggest the crime could be happening and to have the courage, the boldness, the moral fortitude to act--to report it to the authorities, the authorized child protection agency in you city or town or those who are the experts in assessing suspicions of child sexual abuse. You do not have to be sure or to have witnessed the crime or to feel you have to prove it.  You do have to have the moral fortitude (and for mandated reporters you do have the legal responsibility to report) to alert the people who will investigate your concern.

This is what the people in power at Penn State did not do.  They looked the other way, denied it, minimized it and fully avoided their responsibilities as adults, as citizens and as moral and civic standard setters.

Even though the trial(s) have not yet begun, and the suspects/accused are innocent until proven guilty, let this be a continuing reminder to all of us of our obligation and responsibility to protect our young people.  Whether our concern or suspicion centers on a trusted teacher, an athletic hero, a clergyperson, a neighbor, a relative, or a stranger, don’t let our fear of making a mistake stop us from calling the authorized child abuse hotline.  Immediately.  This century old problem needs all of us to be advocates, socially responsible individuals and caring human beings to protect our young people. 

Carol J. Trust

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