Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Follow-Up Post: Further Thoughts on the Sandusky Story

I confess...a lot is swirling in my head.  I'm going to pick one topic though, to keep things under control, and it is one I already rambled about before

I continue to follow the Sandusky case more than I really want to admit.  I'm not sure what it is that compels me to tune in to the story.  I've lived in cities so it isn't the first time I had a national story in my backyard (I lived only a couple miles from the so-called Craigslist Killer, my shuttle van driver went to his complex after mine), even if it is unusual for Central PA.  Part of it is about hoping to see justice, especially for child victims.  Part of it is about the way we idolize sports figures and other celebrities as well.  But there's something else and I just can't put my finger on it.  I was sick of Casey Anthony and Conrad Murray after a day or two, but I keep seeking more details this time. 

However, I am NOT interested in attending the hearing next week.  The courthouse is in our small town that neighbors State College.  We aren't right there downtown, but we do live only a mile and a hald from the courthouse.  Out town does NOT get crowds...the highway is a bit busier on game days but the traffic isn't in our town itself.  It seems odd that they are doing a lottery for seats, with a portion for media and a portion for the public.  I guess though that it might be the easiest way and prevent some sort of crazy standing in line that might otherwise be the default.   Regardless, it will be nuts.

There is so much tragedy in this story.  It is horrible to imagine how many kids might have been hurt and hard to understand how people turned a blind eye.  But I'm also trying to focus on some positive outcomes.  I hope the attention makes it a little easier for victims of abuse, past or present, to come forward.  I cannot imagine how hard that is, especially when the perpetrator is touted as such a great community-centered advocate for youth and part of an idolized sports saga.  I had a teacher who blurred the lines once, I didn't even speak up about that (it was borderline, not at all akin to the Sandusky accusations).  The stranger cases are the exception and most victims trust their abuser, making it much harder to speak about the abuse.  I imagine it is even worse for boys/men.  I hope this encourages past victims to seek help and anyone currently dealing with it to speak up. 

Side note: Lawyers need to advertise.  I write for a legal blog and part of the blog's purpose is advertising.  It is important that victims be able to identify legal resources.  I think advertising that you represent abuse victims is appropriate.  I am not so fond of a local lawyer whose TV ad specifically targets victims of the PSU abuse.  It feels a step too far to me. 

I am also encouraged by the call for reform in reporting rules.  Many laws do exist that acknowledge the special challenge of child abuse, including mandatory reporting obligations on many people who have contact with children and suspect abuse.  This case makes it clear that we need more such rules.  We need a system that makes it crystal clear what needs to be done when allegations or suspicions arise in ANY system that involves children.  Two people spoke here....well, at least two.  I do have a level of sympathy for them, both were lower in the food-chain and both did "report up" about what they saw.  A rule that makes it mandatory for those receiving these reports bring them to the police is needed.  It is best for the kids.  It also just eliminates the choice, which I hope these people at least struggled with. 

I have also been heartened to see the community dedicate energy to fundraising and other efforts to stop abuse.  In my first post on the scandal, I expressed hope that the community would take all the emotion and turn it into positive action.  That happened at the first game after the news broke and continues to happen.  Some of it is a PR thing, PSU will have to work to get its reputation back and they have announced several efforts including donating bowl game proceeds to charity and working on a special center dedicated to helping abuse victims.  I see the mixed motives, but I'll take it. 

I hope the victims find justice.  I hope that others speak up if they were also victims, especially those within the limitations period (another side note: I want to say "He misused it.  Cut it off." but I do believe we need to let the system work and in proving guilt in court).  And I hope this tragedy helps us, as a society, learn and move ahead to a better and safer world.

P.S.  I feel silly noting it at all, so minor in the sweep of things, but I will admit the press on the 13th are not here for me.  And I'll see it as an excuse to spend my birthday/hearing day in my PJs. 

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