Dick Lyles: Society should stop aiding child predators
By Dick Lyles
As Jerry Sandusky, the child predator posing as Penn State football coach, grows accustomed to his new life behind bars, we are learning more about events surrounding this case.
On July 18, USA Today published a cover story about the horrific journey of Victim #1. Even though Sandusky was convicted on all charges related to Victim #1, and even though Victim #1 might receive a huge financial settlement from Penn State because they miserably mishandled the case, something is still terribly wrong for which we should all share shame and guilt.
Our shame and guilt should derive from the manner in which Victim #1, along with all such victims are treated by society. Word spread that he was a victim, and he was harassed and threatened so much at his high school that he was forced to change high schools in the middle of his senior year. He and his mother were threatened and harassed so much by neighbors and other members of the community that they had to move to a new home in a new neighborhood and become members of a witness protection program. What a great senior year!
All this grief and misery was inflicted by people other than Sandusky. Some people excuse or rationalize this behavior because Sandusky was an icon in the Penn State football program. But think about it.
What if Sandusky had been convicted of robbing eight or more banks and wounding several people in the process? Would the locals taunt, harass and threaten the bankers and the wounded? What would the reaction have been if Sandusky had eight (or even two or three) DUI accidents where people were injured? Would the locals have bullied and intimidated the injured passengers or drivers? I don’t think so. And if they had, neither the school administrators nor people in the community would have tolerated it for a nanosecond.
The problem is society — meaning us, our friends and neighbors — treat victims of child predators differently. They stigmatize them and cause them to become double, or in cases like this, triple victims. Victim #1 was first victimized by Sandusky. Next he was victimized by having to change schools. Finally, he was victimized again by having to move to a new neighborhood and enter witness protection. All this happened because he was violently abused by a sick deviant.
No wonder victims keep their mouths shut! No wonder victims lie and deny being abused. Victims don’t have to be Rhodes Scholars to sense that even though most child protective agencies and now more police and sheriff departments are handling these cases better, society in general is not.
For those who deem this case an exception because of the aura surrounding the Penn State football program I have a news flash. That’s not an excuse. It’s a flimsy rationalization to avoid the reality that this victimization occurs everywhere.
The harassers at high school should have been expelled. This is bullying at its worst. Neighbors and others who made threats should have been arrested and tried for making terrorist threats or public harassment.
It’s time to stop aiding and abetting the predators. Our culture once stigmatized rape victims; a cultural norm we’ve for the most part left behind. If we’re going to stop child predators we must do the same for their victims. Letting victims know they can report these crimes without being ostracized by us is not only the most loving and caring way to treat the victims, it will also stop predators in their tracks.
Lyles, a Poway resident, is an author and film producer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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