Michael Tabman

The Jerry Sandusky Tragedy

In Crime and Security on June 25, 2012 at 7:36 am

A Tale of All That Went Wrong

Sexual abuse and molestation of children has become such a common story, we should be grateful that we still find it horrifying and disgusting.  If we ever become inured to this, as we seem to have with so many other crimes and sad circumstances, there is little hope for us as a society.

Sandusky’s story was major headlines because of who he was – a prominent figure in our obsessive love of sports.  Perhaps it was that obsession that allowed Sandusky’s pattern of sexual abuse to continue unnoticed and/or unreported.  We see what we want to see and don’t see what will upset our delicate mental balance.

A timeline of Sandusky’s perverted behavior will show that there were warning signs and opportunities to intercede.  As happens so often – nothing happened.  Why not?  We have images in our head of what a child molester looks like and how he acts.  We think that we are savvy enough to pick out a child molester from a crowd.  That is simply wrong.

Men who engage in sexual abuse of children frequently fall within the Jerry Sandusky profile.  They can be professionals and respected members of the community.  They are outgoing and friendly and that friendliness extends to children.  They manage to put themselves into positions, professionally or socially, where they will be around children and have the opportunity to develop a close relationship and gain their trust.  We have often heard of the “grooming process” whereby the sexual predator gradually introduces inappropriate conversations, activities and touching, to slowly bring the child to tolerating sexual interaction.

We know that most child sexual offenses are perpetrated by someone we know and trust.  But, even armed with that information, we fail to see the warning signs because it is hard to believe that we have completely misjudged someone.  To protect our children, we must open our eyes and our minds.  Understand the warning signs from two perspectives: 1) the actions of the offender, such as unusual and excessive interest in a child; and 2) the conduct of the child – sudden changes in behavior (not for the better) or expressions of fear and/or sadness when discussing or seeing the person.

If your child or any child that you care for personally or professionally, gives any warning sign – take notice.  Do not dismiss the possibility as “crazy” or “paranoid.”  If you entrusted your child to someone you believe may be a predator, do not hesitate to admit you may have made a terrible mistake.  You should not make unsubstantiated accusations, but if you have suspicions, take appropriate action.  Talk to your child or bring your child to a professional.  Be sure to do something – time is not on your side.

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