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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sexual assault, sexual abuse -- life long stories

It is hard to read the papers or professional journals these days without being faced with the legacies that arise from sexual abuse and sexual assault. As I write this entry, the media are covering an audio statement from convicted sexual offender Jerry Sandusky. In it, he claims his ongoing innocence. Given the number of convictions, it is hard to accept his protestations that he has been wrongly convicted.

The Sandusky story is more about the failure of an institution to protect. It is certainly not the only one. But another such story is receiving widespread coverage. The Los Angeles Times carrying extensive coverage on the list of names of child abusers that the Boy Scouts of America is alleged to have improperly protected. The stories suggest that the organization simply failed to ensure that those with known records or those whose sexual abuse activities became known to the organization were properly reported, or in some cases, kept away from children.

Research being released today shows that sexual assault and rape has long term implications for the victims. These impacts are across many areas of functioning. The report on the research published by Science Daily notes that the research

shows that female victims suffer from a wide spectrum of debilitating effects that may often go unnoticed or undiagnosed...
"These findings document that victims of sexual assault, and even victims of attempted sexual assault, suffer psychological and social costs more far ranging than previously suspected," says Perilloux, who earned her Ph.D. at The University of Texas at Austin in 2011. 
There is no reason to believe that victims of sexual abuse will be any less affected.

The public may grow weary of the ever growing list of organizations that have failed to protect children. The challenge is more than that, however. It is about the ability of the public to believe in the value of societal institutions - to see their inherent worth. As more and more of them are dragged into the public eye in this way, the growing distrust attacks the credibility of institutions in general. Penn State, churches, Boy Scouts in Canada and the United States would have been seen as trustworthy in the past. The public must now wonder - who next? Child protection organizations  do not escape this scrutiny when stories of their failures come out, particularly when it results in the death or serious harm of a child.

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