In Defense of the Defenseless

Making the case for voluntary reporting of suspected child abuse.

by Debra Reynolds

iStock_000009567045XSmallSeven months ago a jury in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania found a former Penn State University football coach guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse against the very children his charity vowed to protect, help, and offer hope.

Just four months later, the Boy Scouts of America was forced to release its so-called “perversion files,” opening a plethora of information related to the cover up within the Boy Scouts to hide the multi-decade abuses of young scouts at the hands of Scout Masters and volunteers, many of which were allowed to return to similar positions in different locations.

And, just this week, Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation is clouded by scandal involving some of the highest-ranking individuals in the Catholic Church, including lingering questions surrounding his own involvement in handling claims of abuse.

Though one can draw many differences between these events, their similarities stand out as both deeply troubling and completely unacceptable. The failure to report known abuse by Penn State, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Catholic Church allowed abusers to continue unchecked in their victimization of children for decades.

We are left to wonder where the good guys are in these scenarios. What can be more important than protecting the lives of the innocent in our world? The answer simply cannot be that organizations are so shorthanded that individuals are granted a permissive longer leash. Nor is it acceptable to give suspected abusers the benefit of the doubt or fail to act for fear of damaging the organization or suspected abuser’s reputation. Unfortunately, however, all of the above “excuses” were heard in one or more of the cases above, and today’s headlines are replete with news of child abuse being allowed to continue because of failure to report.

Blind and destructive devotion to matters less important than the protection of the defenseless can only lead to the sacrifice of innocence, a sacrifice our society should not tolerate. The criminal should be punished swiftly and the net cast wide to hold accountable any accessory to the crime. It should be second nature to protect the lives and innocence of our young children. State laws vary, but most states require certain persons to report suspected abuse. Even where reporting is not mandatory, however, each of us should consider the duty we have to our children, our society, and ourselves when it comes to the protection of young children.

If you or someone you know is a victim of violence or abuse, please contact your local authorities for assistance. For more information about mandatory or permissive reporting requirements in your state, please contact us on our website.

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