The Penn State
Child Sexual Abuse Tragedy
As the tragic story of children being sexually abused at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, unfolds, we grieve for the victims and their families, but also for multitude of people around the world who were let down by this venerable and respected institution. As an attorney who has represented victims of childhood sexual abuse for nearly three decades, I believe the alleged actions of Jerry Sandusky have all the makings of a serial predator who was left unchecked for many years and, most probably, has left behind dozens and dozens of victims who are now suffering in shame and silence.
That Penn State failed these children is a mark that will go down in history as significantly as the cover-ups of sexual abuse in other institutions such as the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America.
As we experience this latest institutional failure, it should remind us of how vulnerable our children are and that we must do more to protect them from evil. Sadly, as this failure at Penn State and The Second Mile foster care operation so vividly points out, the more unguarded trust and stature an institution gains, the greater the peril for our children.
But while it is important for Penn State to step up and acknowledge their institutional failure by taking actions such as removing Coach Joe Paterno and President Graham Spanier,
we cannot forget the victims. Having worked with hundreds of survivors of childhood sexual abuse by authority figures, I know what they are feeling. Indeed, they are suffering in silence and likely living a life of fear and shame. They need to know that they are not alone, that the abuse was not their fault, and help, in an environment of privacy and confidentiality, is a phone call away.
- Jeff Anderson