[Note: I’ve written about the Penn State sexual abuse case several times previously, first here, about Joe Paterno and later here, about the deeper institutional problems associated with sexual abuse.]
The report from the inquiry into the Penn State sexual abuse case has just been released. The New York Times’ coverage is here.
In my professional life as a communications consultant, I’ve dealt with numerous cases of sexual abuse; I have hard-earned insights about this heinous crime.
Here’s one: while individuals are and must be held responsible for their own actions, institutions, through selective attention (i.e., looking the other way), misplaced priorities (i.e., considering athletic success of paramount importance) and enabling (i.e., providing opportunity), create the conditions necessary for abuse to occur. Unless and until institutions are willing and able to address these conditions, abuse can continue.
This was certainly the case at Penn State (That’s what the inquiry’s report found.) and I’ve found it to be the case elsewhere.
So, Jerry Sandusky is in jail. Penn State and its football program will forever be linked with sexual abuse. Good but not enough, not nearly enough.
People like Sandusky can’t hurt kids without lots of help.