Friday, December 2, 2011

The cockroaches among us

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Bob Costas
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Child sexual abuse is an uncomfortable subject, but an important one. And yes, I'm sure there are more cockroaches out there,... though not that many. These things get so much media attention because they are abhorrent to the vast majority of us.

So in that respect - certainly not in the seriousness of the matter, of course - I think it's easy to overreact here. Heck, if you're a parent, you must be just terrified all the time. (Note that, although these are instances of young boys being sexually abused, you've always had to worry about your daughters.)

But as disgusting as this is, it's good when these things come into the light of day. Seeing a cockroach is unpleasant, but bright light is not where cockroaches thrive. And if cockroaches are there, we need to know it.

As Bob Costas says, if there's anything good about this, it's that these incidents might teach us what we need to do, if we discover something vile like this. You don't just pass the buck. You notify the authorities and then you follow-up on it.

Here's Costas: "If you see something, or if you have reason to suspect something, that involves children being taken advantage of, it's not enough - certainly not to turn the other way - and certainly not enough to say, well, I passed it on to my immediate superior. You have to follow through."

This is where people failed, at least at Penn State. (I'm not familiar enough with the Syracuse incident to even comment on that.) This is what we need to learn. There will always be cockroaches - not many, but some. When you find one, you need to take action, no matter how much you might wish the situation had never come up.

And as the Catholic Church child abuse scandal should have taught us, your first concern, really your only concern, should be for the well-being of children, those being abused now and those at risk for abuse in the future. It might be natural to move to protect a cherished institution - particularly one which pays your salary - but it's flat-out wrong!

Most likely, the only way we can stop this is to make sure these institutions pay a bigger cost - a much bigger cost - for hiding child rape than if they'd just come clean and dealt with it in the first place.

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