“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke
Penn State Scandal
As I am sure you have heard by now, Penn State university has been rocked by the scandal of a former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of sexually assaulting young boys beginning as early as the mid 90’s and continuing throughout and after his tenure at Penn State.
Where Did Coach Paterno Go Wrong?
According to the attorney general report there are several accusations of assault happening both on and off campus property with one in particular being witnessed by a graduate assistant who reported what he witnessed to head football coach Joe Paterno. Paterno then reported the incident to his immediate supervisor who escalated the incident to senior staff, but never University Police or local officials.
The Grand Jury concluded that the sexual assault of a minor male in 2002 should have been reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and/or a law enforcement agency such as University Police or the Pennsylvania State Police in accordance with Pennsylvania’s mandatory reporting statute for suspected child abuse.
Most people don’t disagree with Joe Paterno first reporting to his direct supervisor what he heard from his graduate assistant about Jerry Sandusky assaulting a boy in a Penn State athletics facility shower room. You shouldn’t have to go over your supervisor’s head and report an incident to the police. What we can’t accept is why he waited a day to tell Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and why he didn’t make sure that Curley went immediately to the police with the report. We now know that Curley did not go to the police at all – and Paterno left the matter alone.
What Can We Learn?
In the light of this horrific tragedy, being angry and shocked is simply not enough. What happened at Penn State needs to go beyond anger, surprise, sensationalism, and lengthy news coverage. Every organization that works with children needs to look at what happened and do some self-evaluation of their current sexual abuse prevention strategies. Don’t be afraid to make changes.
Policies Protect Children
Start with a clear policy and guidelines on what is acceptable and not acceptable. The consequences of not having a child protection policy in place far outweigh the cost of implementing them. As fathers, mothers and caretakers we don’t care what the cost is to protect our own children. Churches and ministries should have the same level of protection in place that you would choose for your own children.
It’s not difficult to establish a policy with clear, enforceable child protection guidelines. The basic tenants of your policy should include background checks for staff and volunteers in the church that work with minors, including criminal and sex offender history checks. And because only 1 in 10 sexual abusers has a criminal history it is also imperative to have mandatory child safety training on the topic of sexual abuse prevention and awareness.
Be sure to get signed agreements from volunteers stating they have read and understand the policy and agree to adhere to the requirements of the policy. Enforcing the policy is essential to demonstrating that your organization has performed the necessary due diligence, in case someone still manages to slip through the cracks.
Children Won’t Always Tell
Next it is paramount that we figure out how to get kids to understand when something wrong has been done to them – and then report it to the right people. It is terrifying how pedophiles are able to keep their victims silent. Children remain silent because their abuser scares them into silence; there can also be shame and embarrassment, and sometimes even a feeling of affection for the person molesting them. Silence is terrible because it protects and enables the molester to keep on molesting, and it deprives the victims of the help they need. Studies have shown the average sexual predator victimizes 120 before being caught.
Predators Are On The Prowl
It is not enough to say “we know everyone” or “that will never happen here.” The church is a target for predators. Predators are eager to volunteer to work with children and typically won’t wait long before gaining access. If access is not permitted they will move to another target. The six-month rule is a great way to weed out any potential predators.
About Protect My Ministry
Protect My Ministry continues to work diligently to educate churches in the area of ministry protection and provides resources can assist any ministry in the creating and maintain a safe environment for those entrusted to their care. Our proprietary processes, products and solutions have made Protect My Ministry the industry leader for volunteer background checks, child safety training and risk management solutions.