Through the Penn State sex abuse scandal, we have been given the opportunity to put a face to a vicious, widespread crime. That face, at the moment, is that of Jerry Sandusky.
Sandusky, 67, has been charged with sexual abuse of eight boys over a 15-year period. His preliminary hearing on 40 criminal counts is scheduled for Dec. 13. A new accuser came forward just days ago.
As parents across the country sit on their couches and call Jerry a sick a-hole, their relatives, friends, neighbors, church members, babysitters, boyfriends, husbands, children’s teachers, parents of their children’s friends, and others are currently sexually abusing their kids.
Jerry’s case has put a spotlight on athletic coaches. Sadly, other abuse allegations involving coaches have surfaced within the past few weeks, but figuring out who may abuse your child isn’t that simple. There is no definitive profile of a child molester.
How many times have we heard parents say that they told their child to tell them if someone touches them? How many times have we, as grown adults, done something that truly terrifies us? How many times have we confessed to participating in something that we are deeply ashamed of and feel responsible for? Every parent assumes that their child will tell them if they have been abused, and nearly every parent is wrong. Case in point: Decades and alleged victims later we are finally hearing that Sandusky was allegedly having his way with young, disadvantaged boys. Decades later some alleged victims are now coming forward.
It’s comforting to sit at home, look at Sandusky‘s rotting teeth, unattractive face, and say that he is sick. Inside we’re all thinking that he looks like a child molester, walks like a child molester, and says things that a child molester would. We breathe a collective sigh; our children are still safe, or are they?
As someone whose former babysitter’s son is currently sitting in a jail cell convicted of rape, and has victimized some people that I know, as a friend to those who’ve been abused by relatives, family friends, and others they were close to (and from the countless stories we’ve all heard), it becomes clear that predators are, essentially, our “friends.” The people we “know and trust” are the ones who abuse our kids, and victims often don’t speak out.
Anyone who takes a special interest in your child, although you think that your child is the best ever, should be considered suspect. Any grown adult who is eager to spend a significant amount of time with your child should also be considered suspect. Be suspicious of those who give your kid gifts. Know that if a grown adult babysits your child, the babysitter’s children also has access to your child. If someone is married, that’s a great cover. Just because a grown man has an adult wife does not mean that he isn’t lusting after young children. Additionally, for tweens and teenagers, exemption is granted, but they, too, are capable of taking advantage of those more vulnerable.
We can’t rely on the media to go in depth about the shameful and controversial issue that is child sexual abuse. But what we can do is stop profiling those that we think may abuse our kids, while eliminating those who are actually most likely to abuse our kids – the teenagers and adults that we, or our kids, are closest to. Until then, child sex abuse statistics will continue to rise, all the while, like in the Jerry Sandusky case, most instances are never even reported to begin with.