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2011’s Lessons on How We Can Better Protect Children From Sexual Abuse

2011 was a momentous year for the protection of children.  This was the year when the public learned that the anatomy of child sex abuse cover-ups is the same regardless of the institution involved.

In November, a grand jury report was released alleging that former Penn State defensive coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused 8 children.  Even more important for our understanding of cycles of child sex abuse were the allegations that leaders in the Penn State administration knew about the abuse yet did nothing to stop Sandusky.

Those leaders included President Graham Spanier and legendary football coach Joe Paterno, both of whom were fired.  In addition, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Gary Schultz are now facing a criminal trial for perjury, which is predicated on the theory that they knew about the abuse as well.

Not long after the Penn State scandal broke, Syracuse basketball coach Bernie Fine was named as another alleged child sex abuser by two men.  It emerged that famed head basketball coach Jim Boeheim had heard of the allegations several years earlier.  At first, Boeheim jumped to defend Fine.  But he soon had to retract his rash statements when other survivors came forward, and when a taped conversation was released in which Fine’s wife essentially admitted that Fine had abused children in their home, and that she had had sex with one of his victims.

Then we learned about The Citadel, and its camps, where graduates had abused children.  One alleged abuser, who was not reported to the authorities by Citadel officials with the information, allegedly went on to abuse more children in a nearby community.

Based on these incidents, here are the Top 10 lessons about child sex abuse that I believe we’ve learned (or re-learned) in 2011:

10.  Organizations cover up child sex abuse.  Period.  University or church, day care center or family, kids are at risk.  Right now.

9.  The pattern of the cover-up of child sex abuse is the same, regardless of the institution.  We see the same patterns, for instance, at Penn State and in the Catholic     Church.

8.  It takes all of us to cover up child sex abuse.  One adult after another let down Sandusky’s victims—from the head of the University, to the head football coach, to an assistant coach, to the janitors.

7.  The information about ongoing child sex abuse is all around us and needs to be put to constructive ends by adults taking action when they suspect abuse, rather than protecting fellow adults who are accused of abuse.

6.  Abuse is a lot more prevalent than anyone wants to believe—1 in 4 girls and 1 in 5 boys.  So when you get a whiff of it, pay attention and take action.

5.  Those who come forward to allege that they were the victims of child sex abuse rarely make up their claims.  To the contrary, they tend to skimp on the details. Often the abuse is much worse, but they cannot bear to describe its full extent.

4.  States must enact better laws if our children are going to truly be safe from sexual abuse.

3.  We need better mandatory reporting laws, with strict penalties for failure to report.

2.  We need to eliminate the statutes of limitations (SOLs) for child sex abuse, to reflect the reality that it takes most survivors many years to come forward.  And we desperately need windows that will let victims whose SOLs expired to get to court and name millions of operating child abusers.

1.  Politicians are behind the learning curve on these issues, and they need to be prodded to make children, and child sex abuse, a priority.

Although this year served to open the nation’s eyes to some of the realities of child sex abuse, and how to combat it, many in power have failed to learn the true lessons of these scandals.  For instance, Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett has dramatically slowed down the pace of reform in the wake of the Penn State scandal by endorsing the creation of a commission to study the issues—one of the tried and true means of avoiding actual accountability.

Meanwhile, New York’s Gov. Cuomo has backed adding university employees to New York’s mandatory reporters, which would be a genuine step forward—but he says he worries about faulty memories if SOLs are eliminated.  Is Cuomo personally on the fence, or is he being influenced by the Catholic bishops, who are surely still irate about his support for gay marriage?

Whatever Corbett’s or Cuomo’s political motives may be, the right answer, from the standpoint of justice, is clear:  In the end, this is all about children.  If the relationships of these powerful men are allowed to get in the way of the right legal reform, then we will see yet another instance of the powerful covering up for abusers, and turning a blind eye as children suffer.  And haven’t we seen enough of that already this year?

Marci A. HamiltonMarci A. Hamilton is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, and the author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty and Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children. She also runs two active websites covering her areas of expertise, the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, www.RFRAperils.com, and statutes of limitations for child sex abuse, www.sol-reform.com. Professor Hamilton blogs at Hamilton and Griffin on Rights. Her email address is hamilton02@aol.com.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Edgardo-Vazquez-Castro/560265733 David Edgardo Vazquez Castro

    excelenet publication, thanks 

  • JohnDoeUtah

    “States must enact better laws if our children are going to truly be safe from sexual abuse.”

    States need to abolish the Sex Offender Registry, and use that money to require mandatory preventative programs in our children’s schools and communities.  Everyone gets behind the bandwagon on these things, which gives a false sense o security, the Sex Offender Registries have not saved one single child from abuse.

    98% of Victims are abused by someone they know, which negates stranger danger fears.

    According to the State of New Jersey, Megan’s Law: Assessing the Practical and Monetary Efficacy, Kristen Zgoba, Ph.D.; Philip Witt, Ph.D.; Melissa Dalessandro, M.S.W.; Bonita Veysey, Ph.D. (Dec. 2008), the Sex Offender Registry has not reduced new sex crimes or sexual recidivism. (http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/225370.pdf)

    Based on these studies the recidivism rates for Registered Sex Offenders is much lower than politicians and the media portriats:

    SOUTH CAROLINA 2010Study: Sex offender law changes may not have boosted community safety http://www.thestate.com/2010/10/22/1519420/study-sex-offender-law-changes.html#ixzz1DJVvk61Shttp://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/231989.pdfWASHINGTON STATE 2005Sex Offender Sentencing in Washington State: Has Community Notification Reduced Recidivism? http://www.wsipp.wa.gov/rptfiles/05-12-1202.pdfRecidivism of Sex Offender Released from Prison in 1994, USDOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics (5.4%)http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsorp94.pdfRecidivism of Sexual Offenders in the State of Utah (25-year Study, 9%)http://www.ipce.info/library_3/files/prof_to_commission.htmhttp://www.soc.utah.edu/people/adjunct/vitae/Bench%20CV%20PDF.pdfCalifornia Sex Offender Management Board Findings (10 year, 3.3%)http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com/2009/07/sex-offender-recidvism.htmlNew Jersey Study, Megan’s Law: Assessing the Practical and Monetary Efficacy, Kristen Zgoba, Ph.D.; Philip Witt, Ph.D.; Melissa Dalessandro, M.S.W.; Bonita Veysey, Ph.D. (Dec. 2008)http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/225370.pdfMassachusetts 2008http://www.urban.org/publications/411657.htmlWyoming 2005http://legisweb.state.wy.us/PubResearch/2005/05RM078r.pdfMinnesota 2007http://www.doc.state.mn.us/documents/04-07SexOffenderReport-Recidivism.pdfAlaska 2007http://www.ajc.state.ak.us/reports/1-07CriminalRecidivism.pdf(“Sexual offenders were the least likely to commit the same offense again.”)According to this study, New York , Does a watched pot boil? A time series analysis of New York States’s sex offender registration and notification law, Sandler, Jeffrey C.; Freeman, Naomi J.; Socia, Kelly M., Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. Vol 14(4), Nov 2008, 284-302.http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=search.displayRecord&uid=2008-18509-003 , 95% of new sex crime is committed by non-registered, first-time offenders.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kimthedish Kim Rose Dishy

    I BELIEVE if U harm, neglect and /or abuse a child and as animal. Your going down,,rot the rest of your life in prison.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kimthedish Kim Rose Dishy

    children look up 2 there parents, even older siblings, so inocebt as they rely on us. I believe any kind of abuse, physical, emotional, neglect 2 any child OR a animal. Keep these monsters locked up n throw away the keys!

  • Paul in CA

    Much of this would go away if Porn was recognised as an evil. There was no respond when I emailed O Rielly regarding his rant over sex offenders.

  • http://twitter.com/MenInMyTown Keith Smith

    Stranger Abduction Sexual Assault Survivor, Keith Smith shares “5 Steps You Can Take to Keep Kids Safe” at http://www.MenInMyTown.wordpress.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Skiendzielewski/1168087575 Michael Skiendzielewski

    Gov. Corbett’s response…..

    …..creation of a commission to study the issues—one of the tried and true means of avoiding actual accountability….

    Once again, Marci tells it like it is.  When, oh when, will our elected officials show us real leadership?  Time and time again, when the important issues need immediate attention and action, we see images of Pontius Pilate “washing his hands” of responsibility.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Skiendzielewski/1168087575 Michael Skiendzielewski

    Gov. Corbett’s response…..

    …..creation of a commission to study the issues—one of the tried and true means of avoiding actual accountability….

    Once again, Marci tells it like it is.  When, oh when, will our elected officials show us real leadership?  Time and time again, when the important issues need immediate attention and action, we see images of Pontius Pilate “washing his hands” of responsibility.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Skiendzielewski/1168087575 Michael Skiendzielewski

    Gov. Corbett’s response…..

    …..creation of a commission to study the issues—one of the tried and true means of avoiding actual accountability….

    Once again, Marci tells it like it is.  When, oh when, will our elected officials show us real leadership?  Time and time again, when the important issues need immediate attention and action, we see images of Pontius Pilate “washing his hands” of responsibility.

  • Child Assault Prevention

    One of the things we can all do is to donate to and support our local Child Assault Prevention programs.  They work!  They also look for volunteers to do the trainings and help spread the word.

  • Child Assault Prevention

    One of the things we can all do is to donate to and support our local Child Assault Prevention programs.  They work!  They also look for volunteers to do the trainings and help spread the word.

  • Child Assault Prevention

    One of the things we can all do is to donate to and support our local Child Assault Prevention programs.  They work!  They also look for volunteers to do the trainings and help spread the word.

  • Emm Leblanc

    protecting the children should start by forbiding illegal practice of surgery by non-medically trained “mohels” (circumcisers) to perform circumcision which include sucking the molested penis ! Shame on any state to allow such practise which killed babies by transmitting them herpes and hepititis C !

  • Patti

    Everyone has all these opinions but many of you are against teaching our young children about child sexual abuse in the classroom. I worked for a non-profit agency teaching many other orgainizations about child sexual abuse such as the Women’s Haven Center, Drug Court, 2 to 3 hours in psychology courses offered at our University and Junior College however when trying to reach out and teach high school students not one high school would let us in. I believe that we should teach our children good touch bad touch as early as preschool and periodically throughout the grades. I was told that it could not be taught because it was to sexual in content. I truly believe the principle was more concerned if students came forth with their stories that it would disturb everyone’s life from families to faculty. What a crying shame. I am a survivor from the molest by my father and if someone would have taught me early on I would not have had to live the first 40 years of my life incredibly screwed up. Let’s get the word out let’s teach our young.

 

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