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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Why Sandusky matters

The conviction of former Penn state coach Sandusky matters a great deal for child protection. And no, it should not act as the basis for fear mongering that it will lead to more unwarranted apprehensions of children by child protection. Such a suggestion is based upon the notion that child protection workers are incapable of critical thinking when considering cases.

The fear might be that politicians will now try to gain political capital by making pronouncements that they will enact laws that will ensure that there will never be another Sandusky on their watch. That is politics and bad policy.

But Sandusky does matter because it sends to society some very powerful messages. To begin with, it means that the powerful who abuse can be held accountable. It means that the stories of abuse in the past can still be brought forward and the abuser convicted. It means that systems keeping these dirty little secrets should no longer be tolerated in society and that those systems should be held accountable.

Sandusky's defence lawyers argued that one of the motivations for the victims was to be able to sue and gain money. Yes, Sandusky and Penn State should be held accountable and that might mean paying money as a form of restitution. But there is no amount of money that will make up for the permanent, negative impact that sexual abuse will have on a child. There is no mistaking that such abuse creates life long changes that affect all aspects of a person's life.

There is also the good news in the conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn. He is also in Pennsylvania. He was convicted for assisting the Catholic Church in covering up the sexual abuse by priests. This also opens the door for further accountability by institutions and systems for what goes on by those they supervise.

These convictions will not stop sexual abuse. They are public pronouncements that society is one step closer to taking strong stands that it is wrong and it will be something that society will take on stand on and send messages that it should not be tolerated. I should say will not be tolerated but I worry that there are still elements of society where it is going and the systems have yet to take the needed stand. Maybe this will crack open some of those doors.

Maybe also, these convictions will make it easier for other victims to step forward and tell their stories.

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