As the trial and sentencing of Jerry Sandusky end on Oct. 9, we hope that some measure of justice has been served for the victims. Sanduskys abusive behavior and Penn States initial response have been painful reminders of the ways in which adults and organizations fail to protect our vulnerable children. The unprecedented NCAA sanctions against Penn State and the more general condemnation of some colleges over the top, win at any cost culture of sports have been eye openers. Our surprise is not that this culture exists, but that the safety of our children can be so heinously compromised on a daily basis.
For all that is disturbing about this case and all those who have been harmed, there is the potential for good to come from what we have learned. There is a role for all of us.
Estimates suggest that each day tens of millions of youth participate in activities that could be made safer by systematic prevention activities. Although many organizations already incorporate prevention efforts, all organizations working with children or teens would benefit from stronger staff and volunteer screening policies, regular self-assessment and greater efforts to mandate staff to keep youth safety in the forefront. The Sandusky case also reminds us that we need to educate parents and raise public awareness about the vital role that they play in creating safer environments for children.
In the long run, the real tragedy of the Sandusky case will be measured by how we, as communities, respond to this tragedy. Locally, the Child Advocacy Center of Northern New York and the Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County are two resources that can inform you of what can be done to make the world a safer place for our children.
Elaina F. Marra
The writer is executive director of the Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County Inc.