Posts Tagged ‘ Jerry Sandusky ’

The Lasting Lesson From The Sandusky Scandal

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

You probably heard that Jerry Sandusky was sentenced today to what amounts to a life sentence. 

You may have also heard that he still claims that he is innocent – after being convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse.

So after all of the fallout, including upcoming trials for former Penn State administrators, the firing of a legendary football coach, and unprecedented sanctions against the university’s football program (one of the most renowned in the country), Jerry Sandusky essentially suggests that all of these actions were misguided because he didn’t do what everyone has concluded he has done.

Or put another way – the individuals who spoke up about his abuses are lying.

And that leads us to the lasting lesson of the Sandusky scandal – abusers lie. They often paint their victims as liars. They especially like to suggest that kids are not trustworthy reporters of their behavior and that their actions are misunderstood. They like to hide behind a public persona and want you to not only believe that they are being vilified by people in the community and, in this case, the press and the court.

They want you to doubt the truth.

And that’s what we have learned. If a parent gets a signal that something is not right between their child and an adult that is entrusted to them, the parent has to pursue it properly and vigorously. They have to go through the chain of command and not stop until they are completely satisfied that they have learned the truth. Sure, you can’t assume an adult has done something until you uncover more evidence – but the fact is that you shouldn’t assume an adult in a responsible position is inherently incapable of committing a horrendous act just because of their reputation in the community. The days of assuming that kids can’t be trusted to speak up, and that adults should be trusted because of “who they are” are long gone.

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Penn State To Host Conference On Child Trauma Research, Prevention, And Treatment

Friday, August 31st, 2012

While the magnitude of the Penn State scandal has been recognized by many (including this author), it is important to also understand how the university is taking positive steps to be proactive with respect to supporting efforts aimed at prevention of child trauma. With that in mind, it is worth noting that the university will be hosting a conference in State College, PA, on October 29-30, 2012, which will convene a variety of experts to discuss research, prevention, and treatment. 

Notably, this conference will feature discussions with two very prominent individuals who have suffered sexual abuse as children: Elizabeth Smart and Sugar Ray Leonard. It will also bring expertise from academia to inform on current issues with respect to prevention and treatment.

For those in the area who might be interested in attending, information on registration (and more details about the conference) can be found here.

Research supporting child development – including prevention and treatment studies – have long been a tradition at Penn State. This conference will not only bring together experts but also remind us of the very real contributions that Penn State faculty have made (and continue to make) in support of children, including those who have suffered trauma.

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The Penn State Sanctions: Respecting Kids’ Rights Above All Else

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

This week the NCAA levied unprecedented sanctions against the Penn State football program in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. If you don’t follow college football closely, suffice it to say that the NCAA is putting in provisions that will create a substantial overhaul of Penn State football that will unfold over a number of years. 

The magnitude of these actions – which can be seen as being both punitive and corrective – have been debated some, but the reality is that Penn State accepted them without a fight. It’s clear that the “egregious” (that seems to be the word of choice, and appropriately so) nature of the acts and the lack of an effective checks and balances system at Penn State that covered up these acts (and failed to prevent future ones as well) left no choice but to require a major overhaul of the program and its relation to the university.

For me, this is an important moment in college sports, in that it is making the strong statement that they are putting kids first. You can read here the news release from the NCAA that highlighted why they took such strong actions. But I’ll cite here one quote that sums it up:

“As the individuals charged with governing college sports, we have a responsibility to act. These events should serve as a call to every single school and athletics department to take an honest look at its campus environment and eradicate the ‘sports are king’ mindset that can so dramatically cloud the judgment of educators.”

There are certainly many uninvolved people – especially current student athletes – who are negatively affected by the sanctions. But the magnitude of the failure of the athletic and administrative officers in the past require that the program be rebuilt slowly and with resolve to, first and foremost, honor the responsibility of respecting kids’ rights above all else – and having an effective structure in place to make sure this happens.

When I look back at my graduate days at Penn State, I remember working with world-class professors and researchers. I remember being challenged and nurtured to grow as a professional and as a person. I remember there being checks and balances in place to make sure I completed my academic requirements properly. And I know that if my behavior violated basic ethical principles, that would not have been tolerated.

In a prior blog post, I suggested that we parents can take from this scandal the need to cultivate informed trust with individuals and institutions who are responsible for nurturing our children. I think these sanctions echo that sentiment and provide an opportunity to make sure that principle becomes central to the football program at Penn State.

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The Sandusky Verdict: What’s The Biggest Take-Home Message For Parents?

Monday, June 25th, 2012

By now you have heard that Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child abuse and child endangerment. Last November, I wrote about my feelings as a professional, a parent, and a Penn State grad. Since then, not much has changed for me. That said, I think the trial and conviction certainly reinforces a principle I believe we all have to adhere to these days: 

Cultivating Informed Trust

I don’t want to be a distrustful parent and harbor suspicions about all the adults entrusted with caring for my child (teachers, coaches, etc). I don’t want to be a helicopter parent and micro manage the time my child spends away from me. But I do think we all have a very real obligation to be involved and informed. We need to establish a respectful dialogue with the adults in our child’s life. We need to let them know that we will want to be informed and keep an eye on our kid. We want them to know that we will, now and then, want to observe what they are doing and how they do it. We also want them to know that we don’t want to indulge our kids, but in the end, we want to make sure that the adults they are around treat them fairly and with respect.

We also want our kids to know that we want to hear about their lives. Although we want them to treat adults with respect and follow rules, we want them to know that they should never do something that seems uncomfortable. In fact, they should never feel uncomfortable, uneasy, coerced or threatened. And they should not only know that they can talk to us – we should openly talk to them and stay informed about their feelings and their experiences. An open line of communication with kids is one of the most powerful ways to help protect them because we can get warning signals of something (or someone) gone awry.

There are lots of other good tips to consider – you can read some here. But for me the overarching idea is informed trust – we have to stay involved and informed with the adults in our kids’ lives, as well as with our kids. That way we can strike a balance and let our kids experience the world as safely as possible – and know that they always can (and should) rely on their parents to support and protect them.

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