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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Why Shmucks Like Sandusky Get Away With It

Well, the coach’s time has come and not a moment too soon.  The pedophile pervert Sandusky will probably be locked up for life, but the fact is, he did get away with it.  For years.  Abusing children entrusted into his care, not to mention an adopted son, as well.  I don’t doubt that he might face some abuse of his own in prison, or rot in hell, or have any number of other terrible things transpire, but there are other issues to face right now, lessons to learn.

How did it happen?  At the same time when the Catholic Church is also getting its hand slapped due to shifting pedophile priests to unsuspecting parishes, and letting them continue their abuse, we can ask, we have to ask:  How did it happen?  Why did it happen?  How can we prevent it from happening again and again?

This is not just Pennsylvania.  It’s all over.  This is not just ancient history, finally coming to light.  It’s happening today.   It’s happening in many industries supposedly caring for kids.  There are teachers, priests, coaches, and youth workers who have access to your children and mine.

I don’t have all the answers by any means.  And often, we see targeted, those who come from struggling families whose parents put their children into after-school programs where they should be safe.  Well, they’re not.  The sooner we all realize that a very innocuous “family man” may be our kids’ worst nightmare, the better off we’ll all be.

Nothing wrong with trust, but you need to verify.  These creeps hide under cover of religious, sports, family, or educational trappings.  I was shocked when one of the widest pedophile rings broke open in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem earlier this year– the details beyond sickening.  It can happen anywhere.  Statistically, most of it happens among extended family members.  What’s a parent to do?

1.  Talk.  You must talk with your kids.  We’re a religious family and I talk about things that probably make Benedetto faint.  We’re both old school and old country.  Nobody talked with us about anything.  I just pretend I’m a doctor, take a big gulp, and talk about things I am absolutely not comfortable with, but if that’s all the suffering I go through in life, I will be very fortunate, indeed.

It can be quite simple and need not be graphic.  Tell your children, “If anyone ever wants to touch your private parts, scream!  If they try to remove your clothes, or touch you through your clothes, run away!  Tell somebody in charge immediately.  If they don’t believe you, I will.  These creeps say they’ll kill your parents, or your siblings, or your pets if you tell.  It’s all a lie, do you understand?  These are very sick people.”

2.  Remove all opportunity for abuse.  Most parents cannot be around their kids 24/7… but try.  If a sports practice ends at 6:00 pm, try to be there by 5:45.  Let your child shower at home.

I remember growing up, our junior high had open showers for the girls (also the boys) and I refused to shower.  Our female gym coaches were very masculine and they insisted we all strip and shower.  I’d use a wet towel and clean myself off, but I was not about to parade around in my birthday suit.  I had my mother call the school, say I was not showering under such conditions, and maybe all of them should climb in and shower with their colleagues!  Oh, I loved her.

Allow for no time lags.  Never drop off early or pick up late.  If your child has a religion class, or youth group, that priest, pastor, or rabbi had better be with the entire group, the entire time.  No back room encounters, even if helping to move supplies, or whatever.  Always have a buddy there.

No family reunions or picnics where a child disappears.  It could be a cousin, or an uncle– be on high alert and remove any chance they have to get to your child.

3.  Educate workers.  I’ve worked with non-profits helping kids.  When I train workers, I’m very clear:  never touch a child.  Don’t grab an arm, hug them, put a hand around their waist, sit them on your lap, hold hands, etc.  You can put a hand on their back between the shoulder blades, either to congratulate them, or guide them to the next activity.  You can give them a high-five, but that’s it.  Don’t call or text them.  Call their parents.  No giving rides home, I know you want them to participate, but you could be falsely accused, as well.  Never be alone with a child.  If a kid has a problem and needs to “talk”, it should not be in parked car or back room.  Always have a witness nearby, in the same room.  Sit with an arm’s length space between you.  We live in a nutsy world and this protects everyone.  Any new staff members or volunteers?  They get “the talk” and a handout– put it in writing, so there are no misunderstandings.

4.  Verify.  When we send our kids to camp, it generally has some spiritual connection.  But on top of that, all camp counselors (often top college students whom they recruit) undergo police background checks.  Not that this gives the whole picture, but in case they’re up to no good, the potential perv gets the picture.  Big Brother is watching.

5.  Drop by.  Call us helicopter parents or whatever, but we’ll drop by an event upon occasion.  Whether it’s youth group or sports, we might show up with snacks or something.  This doesn’t mean a huge hill of beans, but when someone’s getting a crazy idea, I pray that they see our faces looming big in their mind.  These days, many camps have live cameras or photos of their daily events, too.  While nothing untoward would happen out in the open, it still gives that sense that parents are welcome, and there’s nothing to hide.

6.  If your child is too young to understand any of the above, they’re simply too young to be away from your care.  Our children are 15, 15, 14, and almost 12.  This is the first year that the three younger ones are going to sleepaway camp for five-day stints.  I hope they’re ready.  They deserve some fun.  Safe fun.

You can’t turn the clock back once abuse occurs.  It’s not the victims’ nor the parents’ fault when this happens.  But we can somewhat lower the risk of it ever happening.  I hope so.

Have a safe summer.



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6 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Linda says:

    I remember being shocked when my husband said (now years and years ago) that if he’d see a child crying on the street, he would not go and ask what’s wrong, he’d go and knock on a door, ask if there was a woman in the house, and could that woman please go and ask the child what’s wrong.
    At that time it felt wrong, why wouldn’t he go and help that child.
    But, he’s Irish, he’s seen the lynch mobs, even when the person hadn’t done anything.
    I think in many ways living over here, you tend to not think about that things happen, it’s very rarely on the news.
    We don’t really have the same after school groups as you, here once the child is past 2 grade (about 8+) they are expected to go home (or a friends) after school, and wait for the parents to come home. All sports are mostly in the evening after 5pm so the parents have time to drop them there.

    We have how ever already talked to our 5 year old about privet parts and talking to strangers and getting in to cars etc. How much he understood and what he would do if someone would offer candy I have no idea.
    So we don’t let him out of our sight and hope he doesn’t do anything silly. (says the girl who hitch-hiked since she was 12 all the way until I was 21 and moved back home and bought a car)

    • avatar admin says:

      Your husband is smart, Linda. I think most of us would immediately go to a child, but if his life experience has been different, it could be wise to understand that the thinking is different all around the world. Times have changed. What we did as kids is not the same as what our children can do. I know I used to ride my bike all over, for long hours. Once we were school age, both of my parents worked, and I came home with my own key as did my brother. But we all knew our neighbors, it wasn’t like today, where people live far from where they grew up, or don’t know many people surrounding them. The European way of life could be more user-friendly than the American one. I picked up our oldest at camp and we had a talk on the long drive home, how drop-off times for all of the camps were very inconvenient, either on the day of the week, or the time of day. He will attend another camp later this summer from 9:00 – 3:30 each day. Most parents are at work. That automatically limits participation to very privileged kids, or children whose parents can set their own schedule. I need to write about this….

  2. avatar Sybil says:

    Sandusky is on suicide watch? My advice to authorities….don’t watch him.

  3. avatar JKnow says:

    Excellent points, excellent advice.
    I remember when my kids were younger, I heard (or read?) someone say that a younger child’s idea of a “bad guy” (or a stranger) might be quite different than what we were trying to convey. The suggestion was to ask the child, “What does a bad guy (stranger) look like?” So I did. And my one said, “Well, you know… they wear black clothes… and a cape… maybe a mask? …And they look angry…” You get the idea. I said, no, ANYONE they didn’t know was a stranger. It could be a man, a woman, a “grandma” or “grandpa,” or a “big kid” (what they called anyone over, say, 14 or so). That same source said, don’t just tell your kids once. Talk to them regularly, even when you think they may be old enough for you to stop saying it. And your advice to volunteers/workers – sad that it must be so, but yes – spot on. Thanks, a bit belatedly, for this post.

    • avatar admin says:

      You’re welcome, JKnow. You’ve just reminded me to have this talk again as our kids get ready to go away for a week at the end of the month…. You can never be too careful! That’s the thing with predators, they are always combing the area for new victims and looking for a child/ young adult with their guard down.

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