The release of the Freeh Report to Penn State University today documents years of secrecy and silence around child sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky and a fundamental disregard for children’s safety and welfare by failing to report child abuse.
Their actions and inactions are egregious when we read the details of the report. It highlights leaders behave in ways that favor protecting themselves, their reputations and their institutions over protecting children.
By law anyone that works with children is a mandated reporter and must report the abuse to the authorities.
It is a message for every citizen in this country to not look the other like those who did at Penn State.
One of the many recommendations made to insure this does not happen again was increased training of staff on all levels about the responsibility that comes with being a mandated reporter. Stronger and more frequent background checks must also be mandatory.
Paterno was a mandated reporter and together with his powerful allies, committed a crime by covering up child sexual abuse.
When it comes to public reporting, whether you are a mandated reporter or not, we all have the responsibility and obligation to report all child abuse – even if it’s only suspected.
Louis Freeh, former federal judge and Director of the FBI oversaw the investigation and said: “Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”
The investigation which ran the course of seven months, involved more than 400 interviews and the review of more than 3.5 million documents … accusing Paterno, the university’s former president and several others of deliberately hiding facts about Sandusky’s sexually predatory behavior over the years.
“The facts are the facts,” Freeh said of Paterno. “He was an integral part of the act to conceal.”
All of us who work in child abuse prevention agree with Freeh’s Report and recommendations on policies and practices. Yet Penn State and other institutions must take even more steps such as compliance with mandatory reporting statutes, whistleblower policies and background checks on an annual basis.
In order for children to be safe, we as a society must to do more to keep children safe.
Learn the signs of child sexual abuse If you see something, say something!