No more kid gloves for child abusers

    It’s time that we begin treating child rape for the serious crime it is — and setting bail that fits the crime would be a good place to start.

    The bail set for accused child abuser Jerry Sandusky was woefully inadequate. The bargain basement $100,000 unsecured bail spoke volumes about the District Justice Leslie Dutchcot’s underlying friendship (she donated money and volunteered at Mr. Sandusky’s “Second Mile” charity) and unrelenting hero worship stature for Sandusky. Her bail minimized and marginalized the victims, likely deterred other victims and witnesses from coming forward and potentially endangered other children in that community.

    In reviewing the grotesque and disturbing testimony specified in page after page of the Grand Jury report, one has to wonder why any judge would think a man accused of such repugnant crimes is worthy of leniency.

    It’s safe to say that many, many people accused of far lesser crimes have been required to pay far steeper bail amounts, or summarily denied bail.

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    Apart from the despicable nature of these alleged acts of child rape, if you look at the Sandusky case, the purported number of victims and breadth of time over which the crimes took place cry out for a far tougher bail standard.

    Why was the bail so low? Why was this accused child rapist given the freedom to move about the community unfettered for the holidays?

    Even after new victims came forward and public criticism reached a feverish pitch following the first bail arrangement, Mr. Sandusky’s re-arrest warranted little more than a manageable $250,000 bail amount and ankle monitoring device. Once again, I am perplexed and outraged by how the judicial system continues to coddle this man.

    One of the most disturbing aspects of providing bail, or even sentencing leniency for those who rape and victimize children is that study after study has shown a trend toward pedophiles reoffending. Under a 1999 South Carolina sex crimes study, it was reported that serial child molesters victimize between 360 and 380 children during their lifetime. A separate study revealed that more than a third of girls and 16 percent of boys are sexually abused before they turn 18.

    In most cases, these child abusers cannot stop themselves; so we as a society must do what it takes to stop them.

    Take away Mr. Sandusky’s celebrity status and advantageous connections throughout that central Pennsylvania region and one has to wonder how his arraignments would have been handled if he were some no-name.

    In my view, either the district justices failed their community by affording Mr. Sandusky a sweetheart bail deal, or Pennsylvania’s judicial system harbors a misguided and indifferent attitude about innocent children who are raped and harmed by adults who view them as prey.

    If it is the latter, count me among the first who will support new tougher standards on how these cases are reported, investigated and prosecuted. Look for my name as a sponsor or co-sponsor of legislation calling for tougher mandatory sentences, minimal parole opportunities, new accountability measures for judges, and stronger protections for our children.

    I have already introduced a bill that would establish an independent “Office of Children’s Ombudsman” to serve as a strong advocate in investigating complaints concerning government services for children and families such as child protective services, foster care, adoption and juvenile justice services. This agency would probe complaints on agency mismanagement that endangers kids. It would also weigh in on legislative issues and serve as a strong voice for children statewide.

    As a survivor of child abuse myself, I am appalled at the systemic failures and archaic attitudes that continue to render our children vulnerable and helpless. This needs to change.

    LeAnna Washington is a Pennsylvania State Senator for the 4th District.

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