The Unthinkable Becomes Thinkable
Published Nov. 15, 2011 @ 6 a.m.
If you have reason to believe a child is being sexually abused you should call 1-800-252-5400 to report your suspicions.
For a week now it has been difficult to turn on the television and not read about the Penn State scandal. The scandal is especially ironic since as an institution and football program Penn State championed their integrity. How could such a thing be allowed to happen? I am afraid that it might be a lot easier than we would like to imagine.
It begins with relationships. The alleged perpetrator was a close friend and confidant of Joe Paterno. For 30 years they had coached together and the alleged perpetrator still had offices in the athletic department. Everyone had supported the Second Mile foundation that the alleged perpetrator had established. There was a sense of mutual admiration and trust in the department.
These things are not unusual for a child sexual perpetrator. Many seek and gain trusted positions. I am not sure about the alleged perpetrator at Penn State but many sexual molesters in our area (and yes, they live and work in our area) are upstanding church members, members of booster clubs, and work to be respected citizens in their communities.
Having gained our trust and confidence we don’t want to believe the whispered rumors against our friend and confidant. In fact, when a parent begins to suspect that their child might be a victim the perpetrator's friends often react not only with disbelief but with anger that someone would be trying to “bring their friend down” in such a way. How could anyone try to wreck the life of such a wonderful person? The child molester counts on such a reaction.
Then something even more insidious that comes into play. As we have noted, the alleged perpetrator at Penn State has followed a pattern regularly established by child sexual predators. Being a trusted member of the community and having been placed in a position of authority the predator's demise will seriously affect the institution. For other authority figures this is a threat to their life’s work and love. The unthinkable becomes thinkable. The good of the institution is considered more noble than the evil suffered by an individual child. The predator is demoted but the crimes continue.
I do not intend these reasons as a defense of Penn State. There is no defense for what happened there. I am simply pointing out that it could be happening around us. The greatest deterrent to child sexual abuse is the vigilance of adults that are in a position to figure out what is going on. Just before I moved from Amarillo a prominent church there was informed one of its long-time children’s Sunday school teachers was to be charged for child sexual misconduct. It is probably happening in Post Texas.
For several years now I have volunteered as a counselor at an elementary church camp. Before I can go I have to complete an on-line course and test that reminds me of the signs of sexual abuse and the reporting requirements. I am also reminded that in the State of Texas I am required to report if I have a reason to believe sexual abuse took place. I don’t have to believe that the abuse took place. I just have to have reason to believe. If I do not report when I have been given a reason to believe that child sexual abuse may have taken place then I am guilty of a felony. Joe Paterno would be legally culpable in the State of Texas. If you have reason to believe a child is being sexually abused the State of Texas provides a hotline for you to report that possibility. That number is 1-800-252-5400. You are not deciding guilt, innocence or probability. That is the job of state law enforcement. You are legally and morally required to report the possibility. (And no, reporting to your superior does not constitute a report)
One last caution, many child predators were sexually abused as children themselves. If we allow child sexual abuse to continue its cycle we are creating an even bigger problem.
“Not all monsters are bad, but the ones who are good Never do what they could, never do what they could” – “Good Monsters” JoshPowell (Jars of Clay).