Sandusky, Lynn, Brennan — child sex crimes are high on Pennsylvanian’s minds. And there’s more Philadelphia Archdiocese fallout to come. What can we do to protect kids, or empower them to speak up about abuse? Your thoughts?
The cases of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, Monsignor William Lynn and Rev. James Brennan brought high-profile child sex crimes to the front of everyone’s minds. And there’s more to come.
Sandusky was convicted Friday night of 45 out of 48 counts of child sex abuse. Brennan’s case was settled less conclusively, with a hung jury unable to convict him on charges of attempted rape of a 14-year-old boy. But Lynn, who was accused of covering up claims of such abuse, was convicted of a single count of child endangerment.
We want these convictions to be a deterrent for would-be predators, but what should be happening meanwhile to protect kids? So how can we create environments where kids — and adults — feel safe enough to speak up about abuse? Does it perhaps get down to the way we talk to kids about sex (or hide it from them, as the case may be)?
It’s worth noting that, while recent headlines may have parents feeling less and less in control of their children’s safety, kids may not actually be at greater risk. Figures from the Pa. Department of Public Welfare suggest that the number of substantiated cases of child sexual abuse has gone down in the last few years — from 3,077 in 2009, to 3,051 in 2010, to 2691 in 2011.
But numbers can only be so much comfort.
A Penn State alum, Jeff Jubelirer, was quoted in Elizabeth Fiedler’s story about the Sandusky verdict:
“What I want to hear is tangibly what they’re going to do to ensure that something like this … never ever happens again. Does it mean that there are new reporting requirements for individuals with power or who have interactions with children? Are there new positions? […] I really want to see action.”
As Sandusky prepares for what amounts to a life sentence, he leaves behind a legacy of misplaced trust. Lynn is looking at jail time, leaving area Catholics scratching their heads over who to trust in their parish leadership. And Brennan goes home a free man, but with a hung jury there are no fewer questions now than before.
What are your hopes for rebuilding trust?