It is easy for many people to look at the Penn State situation and state what they would have done or what the people involved should have done and in many cases I am in agreement with their assessments. But in reality, people decide to not report child abuse on a regular basis.
The Process of events in the Penn State sex abuse scandal is being reported in the media as the following:
- Coach McQueary having observed Assistant Coach Sandusky in the locker room showers with an under-aged boy, some reports have stated that he only saw them in the showers and others report he saw the boy being raped.
- Coach McQuaery reported what he saw to Coach Joe Paterno
- Coach Paterno then told President Schultz what was reported to him.
- President Schultz decided to handle the situation himself.
At this point it is my understanding that Schultz decided to deal with the situation himself by having Sandusky part from the football program, but over the years allowed him to use Penn State facilities for a charity Sandusky started for foster children.
Over the years due to my experience as a child welfare social worker, many people have come to me presenting their situation asking if they should make a report. Most of the time, the people asking are hesitant to report what they have been told or suspect, in case they are wrong. Their fear is hindering their relationship with the family or ruining a person’s reputation if they are wrong. Some even have a fear that once the accusation is reported, the accused person will automatically be assumed guilty by the professionals, so the thought is that one should investigate themselves to verify if the allegations are true.
I always explain to people that the responsibility to investigate is on the people trained to investigate allegations of child abuse in any form. If the accused is your friend or family member, you may miss obvious indicators of abuse due to your closeness. This does not mean you are bad for not noticing the signs, but that you are human and think highly of your friends and family, and most likely are not trained to investigate such allegations.
If you suspect child abuse or neglect and you know the child’s name and home address, call the children service agency of the County the child resides in or if you live in a state that offers a statewide child abuse hotline number, then call that number. In Ohio, and I suspect in most states, it is illegal for the investigating child welfare agency to reveal the identity of the person making the report to anyone. In many cases one could report anonymously; however, if you are a mandated reporter (teacher, pastor, daycare worker, police officer, etc) then you want to be sure your name is recorded as making the report because if there is no proof of your actions to report, you could find yourself in a similar situation as the men at Penn State, yet having done what you were suppose to but with no way to validate your actions.
If you do not know the child’s name but do know the abusers identity, then call the local police department and if you see the abusive act, intervene by interrupting and calling 911.
When it comes to sexual abuse of minors, don’t think it will be a one-time incident. People who sexually abuse children typically do not stop, and surprisingly to some, most sex abusers were sexually abused themselves. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying all children who are sexually abused will grow up to be an abuser, but I am saying that most all abusers were at one time abused themselves.
Finally, many people are confused on what constitutes as child abuse or neglect. To make this simple, if you are uncomfortable about what you see or hear then report it. Most child abuse hotlines will be able to determine if what you have to say warrants an investigation.