Joe Paterno passed away last week, and it caused the sexual abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky to resurface. And it caused me to think about how this situation is not just an indictment of how men put the needs of an institution above the rights of a child; it’s about something much more insidious in our society.
Jerry Sandusky, who is alleged to have sexually abused several young boys over the years (I believe the current count is ten), started the charity in 1977 as:
“…a statewide non-profit organization for children who need additional support and who would benefit from positive human contact. The Second Mile plans, organizes, and offers activities and programs for children – and adults who work with them – to promote self-confidence as well as physical, academic, and personal success.”
Basically, underprivileged, potentially at-risk children, largely from dysfunctional homes without one (or both) parents. Through The Second Mile, Sandusky had access to hundreds of vulnerable boys. The details enumerated in the grand jury report against Jerry Sandusky reads like a pedophile handbook; find a vulnerable boy, groom him, buy him gifts, take him places, make him feel obligated… then take advantage of him.
All the while, the boy’s mother thinks it’s wonderful that her son has a strong male figure in his life; successful, trusted, well-respected in the community. In short, someone her son can look up to.
But in this day and age, when divorce is more prevalent than not, and mothers are the ones often left shouldering the burden of raising their children alone, how do we insulate ourselves from the potential of this type of tragedy?
Author Gavin de Becker in his book “Protecting The Gift”, discusses how human predators select their targets and how parents can protect their children. A boy with a single working mother, absent father, disadvantaged, is a prime target for these types of predators.
If nothing else, this terrible situation should serve to remind us to care for the least among us. Be observant and speak up if we see an adult exhibiting inappropriate behaviors toward a child. Reach out to the fatherless boys in our communities and build them up in a healthy manner so that they are less likely to become fodder for predators.