Warning: define() expects at least 2 parameters, 1 given in /home/rrejr/public_html/wp-config.php on line 38
Facing Reality: Doing More to Protect Children from Pedophiles | REnotated

Facing Reality: Doing More to Protect Children from Pedophiles

  • As the initial disbelief and outrage over the accusations against Jerry Sandusky give way to high-profile court cases, there is an uncomfortable truth that continues to remain below the surface – we are simply not doing enough to protect children from pedophiles.  Although the scandal in the Catholic Church elevated the topic of sexual abuse in the public conscience, the reality of pedophiles remains something many people would prefer not to think about too closely.  The current scandal involving Sandusky has refocused our attention on the issue, but it may do little to diminish the overall prevalence of sexual abuse unless we face the problem more directly and with a lasting commitment.  What is needed is a complete transformation in the way we as a society think about and take action against the sexual abuse of children.

    Given that approximately one in four women and one in seven men were sexually abused as children and that children today are facing these same startling statistics, we are clearly not doing enough to stop pedophiles.  There are over half a million registered sex offenders in the US and the majority of these have sexually molested children.  These are known offenders.  It is estimated, however, that there are millions more who continue to specifically target children with impunity.  It sounds alarmist, but unfortunately the number of victims, who often remain silent out of shame and fear, sadly supports these estimates.  This isn’t simply an institutional problem of the Catholic Church or Penn State University; it is a pervasive social problem in America and throughout the world.

    To encounter a pedophile for many people, unless they have specific experience in dealing with pedophiles, is to confront an aberration.  It is not uncommon for it to create varying levels of cognitive dissonance where things simply do not make sense.  How can this person people think they know, who is sometimes respected and trusted by many, be capable of such horrible crimes?  This is not to excuse the actions and inactions of those who knew or should have known, but an attempt to place it in the context of our current social environment.  It will be a travesty if we only focus on the present scandal and then eventually move on, rather than provide lasting compassion for the victims of sexual abuse, try to understand the traumas they have experienced, and work to prevent new and continued instances of abuse from occurring.  It is time that the pervasive ignorance that surrounds this issue, and which pedophiles so cleverly use to their advantage, is finally replaced by a sober assessment of reality and the courage to act.  Pedophiles count on the common tendency of people to turn away in confusion and denial, but it is up to all of us not to turn away.

    We must address this multi-dimensional problem at every level, whether it is the prevalence of sexual abuse itself, the social stigmas surrounding victimization, or the long-term impact abuse has on victims, families, and society.  There are many personal, institutional, and cultural reasons that contribute to the widespread inability of people to even acknowledge, let alone stop sexual abuse.  In addition, our criminal justice and legal systems are often not adequately equipped to deal with crimes against children that continue to be rarely reported and if reported at all often done so years later.  As a university, Penn State has the inter-disciplinary resources to actively work toward creating solutions in all these areas.  It would be truly inspiring if Penn State would set the goal to become a premier center for the study of sexual abuse in all its forms and take a leadership role in changing society’s perceptions and prejudices, reducing the prevalence of abuse, and championing the cause of victims.  This could be one positive legacy of this tragedy that would help make it a catalyst for change, not just for Penn State, but for all of us.  It is also a way to truly honor and validate the courage of all victims of sexual abuse.  We should require no less from Penn State – and demand no less from ourselves.

Leave a Reply!

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.