Associated Press is reporting that the investigation headed by former US FBI Director William Freeh is out today. No surprises. The report’s chief finding is that the Penn State administration, including former coach Joe Paterno, by not passing on information about observed abuse to the authorities, caused endangerment to children. Watch for much more as the Freeh report is analyzed and interpreted over the next several days. Will there be additional indictments? Will former university president Spanier face legal actions for neglecting to take action as well?
The parallels between Penn State administrator inaction and the clergy abuse scandals of the Catholic Church are clear, pointing to how people in positions of authority sometimes shield perpetrators from exposure and prosecution — unconscionable but real.
But the larger lesson in all of this is how critical it is to take seriously every child’s report of discomfort around adults who have them in their care or under their supervision. Lives are thrown devastatingly off track as a result of abuse and other forms of trauma. Now is the time for a serious national dialogue about child sexual endangerment. I recommend a presidential commission on the topic to research and report the prevalence of child sexual exploitation in the U.S. and make recommendations regarding legislation and programs needed to overcome this national tragedy. One in six boys and one in four girls are sexually abused before the age of eighteen. This is unacceptable from any vantage point point.
It’s time to plan and execute a national strategy to heal our nation — not only from sexual abuse but from all forms of trauma