Two High Profile Guilty Verdicts Call Us to Renew our Commitment to Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

Commentary on the Sandusky-Msgr. Lynn Verdicts


June 22, 2012

We know that children who tell trusted adults about their abuse and are believed fare much better than those who are not believed. This is no less true for grown-ups. The guilty verdict handed down by jury in the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse trial has validated the truths that these courageous men shared with the world. This is often not the case in our courts - and even less often the case in our homes, schools, and faith-centers around the country.

Today’s level of attention to these headline grabbing events is likely to be short lived. But as the headlines fade from the front page, let us not move on and allow the volume of our national conversation about child sexual abuse to quiet. Let’s all do our part to preserve this higher threshold for talking about the sexual abuse of children that has been set, thank goodness.

Mr. Sandusky and Monsignor Lynn have been held accountable by the courts. To make the most of this window of opportunity, let’s shift our focus to reflect on the situations in our own lives. Let’s consider how each of us can hold ourselves accountable for understanding the risks to children and youth and the actions which will protect them.

Some have said that the end of these trials will bring closure. To rush to the conclusion that a verdict on one man’s actions and another man’s inactions will bring closure is premature. Closure will be achieved when everything that can be done to prevent sexual abuse of children is being done.

A big step toward securing a sexual violence-free future for our children and youth would be for all youth serving organizations to have in place comprehensive policies and procedures backed up by effective implementation. The effectiveness of such action depends heavily on leaders of organizations and those who work with our children to be willing to speak up and to set boundaries that define appropriate interaction. These are prevention actions that happen long before there is a need to report on “proof” that someone has crossed a line and harmed a child. Along with policymakers, we all have to acknowledge and confront the risk of child sexual abuse and respond proactively to create and defend safe and healthy environments for children.

These two high profile cases are emblematic of legal cases unfolding in court rooms around the country – and the many more instances of abuse that are never reported, much less prosecuted. But let’s not wait until the harm has been done when there is so much we can do to keep children safe in the first place. Join us in making prevention a part of all conversations about sexual abuse of children.

The challenge ahead is to take our outrage and turn it into action. Please take some time to be inspired by hopeful stories and learn practical steps you can take within your circle of family and friends – and within your community - to end sexual abuse of children. Let’s Stop It Now!