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A Commentary from Stop It Now!: Our Choices in the Wake of Jerry Sandusky's Sentencing - October 10, 2012

11 Oct 2012 9:04 AM | Adrienne Hoffman-Lewis (Administrator)
Excerpt: Despite his claims of innocence and conspiracy, the prison term handed down yesterday against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky will effectively keep him locked away for the rest of his life. And it puts the rest of us at a collective crossroads in our own lives.

The sentence by Judge Cleland has received a near-universal endorsement from anyone familiar with the sordid details of Sandusky’s sexual abuse of at least 10 boys over a 15-year period. Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse against the boys, who had come under his influence while he served as a Penn State coach and as the founder of Second Mile, a program for at-risk youth.

Sandusky’s charitable works, his professions of innocence, and his goofy grin have revealed him to be a complex archetype and an easily-demonized caricature of a predatory sexual manipulator. These two images respectively offer a great opportunity and a significant danger, for educating adults about how to prevent future sexual abuse of children.

And so, we must choose.

We have an unprecedented opening to use this case’s stunning lessons about ignorance, self-interest and responsibility to closely examine widespread, false assumptions about the dynamics of child sexual abuse and how to prevent it. These assumptions make us all susceptible to becoming silent bystanders who, like many in Sandusky's midst, fail to protect vulnerable children due to self-protective confusion, fear or misunderstanding.

Or we can seek reassurance in the caricature and congratulate ourselves for putting away a man who many equate with evil. We can punish the callous individuals and institutions who we believe should have stopped Sandusky. We can consider our duty done. We can convince ourselves that “they” were the problem and “we” would have done better. That’s the danger of this scenario.

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