Columnist remarks on child abuse, Penn State scandal

Addie Conway

Opinion Columnist Jerry Sandusky stands accused of molesting eight boys. Joe Paterno and Graham Spainer, among others, stand accused of knowing about the crimes but covering them up. This chart details the alleged cover ups.

Child abuse. It’s an allegation that has been on the front page of every newspaper and affected multiple people, yet until a few decades ago, it wasn’t even discussed in society.

Child abuse is everywhere, and an estimated 75 percent of child abuse cases are never reported.

There are three forms of abuse: physical, sexual and emotional. Physical abuse is any form of physical action against a child. Sexual abuse is any form of sexual action against a child. Emotional abuse can range, including actions like not showing the child any form of affection or blaming the child for things that are not their fault

Neglect is also abuse and includes anything where parents don’t meet the basic needs of a child. This can be educational neglect, which occurs when a child between seven and 17 is not enrolled in school full time, or it can be medical neglect, where the parent hasn’t gotten the child the medical advice he or she needs.

A sexual abuse scandal surrounding Pennsylvania State University arose in November 2011. Jerry Sandusky, former defensive football coordinator, stood at the center of it. He currently faces allegations of having forced anal and oral sex, along with molesting boys ranging in age from seven to 13, the majority of who were members of his charity, The Second Mile. The acts allegedly occurred in Sandusky’s home and in the Penn State athletic facilities.

Included in the scandal were beloved head football coach, Joe Paterno, who was heavily criticized for having not reported incidents to the police and school president Graham Spainer, who was accused covering up specific incidents of sexual abuse committed by Sandusky. Both men were brought into court for having committed perjury, a federal offense.

Any professional who is involved with children, be it a school figure, a daycare provider, a nurse, a doctor or even a therapist, is called a mandated reporter. This means that if an allegation of abuse is brought to them, then they are required by law to make a phone call to a hotline. Though Paterno did his duty by reporting the incident to a supervisor, he never made a phone call or witnessed one of his superiors make the call either.

Abuse perpetrators can take two routes when confronting victims. The more common route is to “groom” the victim; this is done by getting the child to trust the abusers and involves the abuser telling the victim that the reason the abuse is happening is because they’re “special” or that the perpetrator “loves” the victim. That way, when the abuse occurs, the victim doesn’t find anything specifically wrong with it. The other less common way is to be aggressive and simply attack the victim.

Is it possible to immediately “spot” a perpetrator? Generally it is not. Although the most common abuse “relationship” is a female child and a male relative, many kinds of abuse occur. Pedophilia, the act of being sexually attracted to a pre-pubescent body, is a recognized psychological disorder and anyone can be diagnosed with it.

It is the accepted theory that there is a cycle of abuse. For example, many pedophiles were abused as children and so a pattern begins, in which they repeat the abuse done to them on other victims. However, this cycle is not mutually exclusive. New people can enter it and anyone can break it as well.

When a child has been abused, it is difficult to tell unless they tell someone, which is rare due to feelings of shame or fear that they won’t be believed. However, lying, stealing, committing acts of arson or abusing animals, hoarding food, wetting the bed after being potty trained or knowledge of sexual acts or terms inappropriate to the child’s age, are all indications of abuse.

Many factors are involved in abuse:: the cycle of abuse, where both victims and perpetrators don’t know what a functional family or have a functional way of dealing with their issues is common. Poverty, substance abuse, stress and lack of coping skills are also included.

The number one way to avoid the cycle of abuse from continuing or from beginning is to educate parents on how to cope with the stress that comes with having children and to develop good support systems.

The truth is that abuse is everywhere, even in Webster Groves. People are much more open about it today but those who suffer from it still feel shame, guilt, embarrassment, confusion and anger. If the child is young, they may not realize that it’s an issue and may even think that it’s normal. Abuse can escalate, and if you can tell someone before it’s too late, you may save someone.

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