paterno getty images What Then Must We Do?

Joe Paterno walks off the field. Getty Images

The Penn State sex abuse scandal is metastasizing.  People who never gave a damn about college football are heatedly discussing Happy Valley, JoePa, and the charges against a former top assistant coach that have now ended the career of the winningest coach on the university gridiron. Some people shrug and say, “he was just a football coach. He did what he was supposed to do. He’s not a detective.”

If any good can come from this horror, it will be in the response to that bogus argument.

Coach Paterno was very good at helping football players win games over a very long stretch of time. When it came to a critical life test, though, he failed. So did others at Penn State. I believe anyone who is still arguing this point of fact has not read the indictment against Paterno’s former assistant. It’s graphic and ugly. You can’t un-read it, though I wish I could. Here’s my WSCR colleague Dan Bernstein on why you should, anyway.

Child abuse, especially sexual abuse, thrives in dark corners. Abusers dressed as good guys count on the rest of us to ignore the small giveaways outlined in that grand jury document. Sleepovers. Trips. Showers. Abusers count on us to dismiss the obvious. Kids tell stories, right? Boys will be boys, right?

There is a large group of adults who are charged, legally, with reporting their suspicions. For the rest of us, the burden is merely moral.

Here’s what you do, if you suspect a child is being abused:

Listen to the kid. 

Call the police.

Call your county State’s Attorney’s office.

Call the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Abuse Hotline – 1-800-25-ABUSE.

And here’s what parents need to do: have a conversation with our kids. It doesn’t have to be graphic, but it should be frank. They need to know what’s private and that we’re there for them, no matter what.

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Comments (2)
  1. Aunt Sam says:

    Thanks Mary. I would add to your last point, based on sex abuse prevention training I received from the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, teach your kids names for their private parts. Whether you use the clinical name or something specific to your family, they then have the words to talk to you if something happens.

    And at all ages, trust your gut–if someone or something makes you uncomfortable, listen to that voice.

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