OVER the next few years when the legal wrangling is finished, the name of Jerry Sandusky will fade a bit from public memory. Sure, people will remember that he molested vulnerable children. We'll even shudder. But minds might struggle to recall how many children he harmed — or at least how many victims we know about — while acting as a savior.
Sandusky wasn't a savior at all. He was a predator. And like many predators, he picked victims powerless to help themselves or seek help from others. Only the Pennsylvania jury's recent verdict branding Sandusky as a criminal can give the victims back any sense of power. Even if some of the victims win civil lawsuits, no amount of money can redeem a childhood mercilessly scarred.
Even as the details fade, we can't forget the lessons learned. They are many, but a few in particular stick out. And they aren't just lessons for those at Penn State, in the education community or child welfare advocates. We can't emphasize it enough: Everyone has a moral if not legal obligation to report suspected child abuse of any type.
It's unfortunate that many child protection agencies have lost the public's faith. The stories of children who came to worse harm while under state supervision are many and horrific. That's no excuse for turning a blind eye to potentially dangerous situations involving children.
The question worth asking when it comes to whether to report potential problems is obvious: What if it was your child? All of the other “what ifs” are just excuses for not doing the right thing.