It is a sobering thought considering the recent allegations of sexual abuse of minors that have plagued Penn State University in recent weeks, as it did the Roman Catholic Church and other institutions, from the Boys Scouts, to Orthodox Jews, to the Church of Latter Day Saints, to many more.
Ironically, the day after my post on the scandal, a story broke in Miami about the search for a public charter school's physical education coach, who had disappeared amidst charges of having sex with a 12-year-old female student. Police suspected more victims.
It is a story too often repeated. According to a 2002 report by the U.S. Department of Education, between 6 percent and 10 percent of public school children across the country have been sexually abused or harassed by school employees and teachers. In other words, an alarming rate of almost one out of every ten students in American public schools!
The Hoftra University researcher that conducted the study for the USDOE, Charol Shakeshaft made an interesting observation, “Think the Catholic Church has a problem? The physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests." (see more here)
On the heels of the physical education coach story, the following day, an elderly man was arrested for sexually molesting his own granddaughters, which according to statistics, is not as uncommon as it may sound. A great majority of sexual abuse of minors, over 50%, occur within the victim’s own family.
Meanwhile, it seems the man behind the Penn State scandal, Jerry Sandusky, is not the first founder of a charity to be accused of sexually molesting children, supposedly being helped by the organization.
A recent article on Fox News points out that just this month, the co-founder of a Utah nonprofit, that helps needy women and children, was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to 43 counts of sexually abusing and exploiting children.
The article also mentions that in the 70's the Boston Red Sox faced their own sexual abuse scandal and apparent cover-up.
A clubhouse manager, who worked with the Major League Baseball team for 30 years, reportedly solicited and engaged in sex with young boys he would hire to work during spring training.
The victims later alleged it was common knowledge among Red Sox staff and officials and even some players told boys to steer clear of the man suspected of the abuse, who, even after allegations were reported, was allowed to keep his job.
In 2002, the clubhouse manager pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual battery on a child and, a year later, the team settled a $3.15 million lawsuit with seven victims in Florida.
Then there was the sex scandal which embroiled the U.S. Swim Team last year. Thirty six coaches were banned for life for reportedly molesting, fondling and abusing dozens of teenage swimmers during a 10-year period.
And, most recently, an assistant basketball coach at Syracuse University is being investigated for molesting two team ball boys about 20 years ago.
It is a sickening and sad reality that goes beyond any institution, organization or group. It is a societal malaise.
The question then is how do we protect our children? It’s a quandary that makes most parents shudder.
While local, state and federal legislators scurry to draw up laws that will help put an end to this disturbing problem, some of which may be knee-jerk responses, the issue may go beyond the immediately obvious.
The problem may be deeper.
There may be many factors but, I wonder how many of those children victimized by predators are targeted because don't have a father living in the home.
Like Sandusky is accused of doing, many predators tend to befriend children that don't have a father-figure in the house or, at least, a distant and uninvolved one.
They draw their victims in by paying attention to them, spending time with them, giving them gifts and taking them to places they would not normally go or have access to.
Unfortunately, we fathers have given up our responsibility as protectors of our households, maybe primarily, because many fathers just aren't around. Career emphasis, divorce and breakdowns in the family, especially in lower income and minority areas, have sometimes separated fathers from one of their main objectives as men and thus left children to fend for themselves.
Tuesday night, I was sitting in our living room with my 10-year-old daughter. My younger daughter was bathing, my son playing in his room and my wife was cooking dinner. I took the opportunity to start a conversation that, if not for the recent Penn State story, I may not have had.
I told her about how some adults like to do bad things to children and may even touch them or force them to do things they may not want to do and then threaten them not to tell anyone. Sometimes, it is even people they trust and love.
She said, "I know, dad."
I felt a sense of security in knowing that our children’s school is teaching kids to be aware of inappropriate touching, behaviour and bullying. Still, is it a false security? At ten-years-old, how much can she, and my other children who are younger, really know?
We live in a dangerous world. Every day, the most vulnerable are victimized and, sadly, the easiest targets are children and the elderly.
If lawmakers are serious about limiting sexual abuse on minors, they need to give more attention to making laws that help restore and promote the American family.
And, we all have to get more involved.
I was talking to a priest in confession on Saturday and he told me, God is giving you a lot and is expecting a lot from you, which made me admit that I feel God is calling me to something greater, yet I am constantly falling short of His call.
It goes back to the Edmund Burke quote, I'd like to think I am a good man, but am I really doing something?...
[pic credit: Andy Colwell/The Patriot-News/AP Photo]