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Readers Forum 11-21-11

Penn St. incident draws attention to abuse

I listened with sadness to the recent news reports about children being abused over many years by Penn State University Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky.
It struck me that this is not really a story about football, leadership or celebrity, but is much more a story about the suffering of children and the human desire to close our eyes and wait for someone else to do what is right.
No doubt, it takes much courage to confront evil, but it must begin with a conscious decision to be watchful, to embrace our individual responsibility to protect children in our community and to boldly challenge situations that put children at risk.
We must be watchful in all of our activities and organizations, to see whether older youth or adults have opportunities to be alone with children without being observed or checked on. Eighty percent of molestations occur, during one-on-one contact situations.
Child abuse thrives in secrecy and continues when adults see it as someone else’s job or responsibility to report.
I challenge every concerned citizen to become more conscious, more committed and more courageous to address policies that place children in one-on-one situations with adults or older youth.
You may be the only one to notice a high-risk situation.
While there are times when one-on-one interactions are necessary, we can do many things to make these opportunities for offenders much less available.
We know there are offenders in our community — in every community.
We know they do not always look scary. In fact, you may unknowingly be acquainted with someone who is getting close to a child and family right now for this purpose, someone who seems nice, interested in the child and concerned.
We can make our community a safer place to be a child.
Law enforcement, child protection and other professionals cannot do it alone. We need you — all of you — to watch, ask questions, talk with others, and take actions to increase safety.
We MUST have a community response to child abuse.  May this terrible case remind us that it is up to each of us, working together, to keep our most precious assets safe…our children.
For information about recognizing and reporting child abuse, please call (704) 736-1155 or visit Web Site  www.cac-lincolncounty.org.
Sherry Reinhardt,
Executive Director,
Lincoln County Coalition Against Child Abuse and Child Advocacy Center

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