By JANA McDERMOTT
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky faces more than 52 counts of sexual abuse against 10 boys over the span of 15 years.
His trial has recently begun. When I read about Jerry Sandusky, it shows me people continue to hold stereotypes about individuals who sexually abuse, and the characteristics of this case really challenge those stereotypes. We tend to believe we can "spot" sex offenders; we are more vigilant of children in malls, crowds and public restrooms - places where offenders might have access to children.
In reality, parents are likely to feel more relaxed when children are with teachers, coaches, babysitters or neighbors, yet we need to remain vigilant. Children are not the only ones being groomed by perpetrators. The family and the community as a whole are being groomed as well, so that if a disclosure of abuse occurs, there will be disbelief.
What are you willing to do to prevent this?
As the country watches the case unfold, I urge parents, families and organizations to talk about what they need to do to make our communities safer for children. I urge adults to find ways to get involved and learn the full scope of sexual abuse.
We know it takes a lot of strength to come forward. This tragedy is a wake-up call for us all; we have the opportunity to learn from this experience. Start by opening the lines of communication. Ask your church, schools and youth organizations if they have policies to protect children, if staff is aware of these policies and if they know how to implement them on a day-to-day basis. Let us use the Sandusky trial as a "rallying point" to begin conversations about protecting our children and teens and to ACT.
The Child Advocacy Program is offering Stewards of Children trainings throughout Chautauqua County. Stewards of Children trainings help adults learn how to prevent, recognize and respond to child sexual abuse. The training is recommended and appropriate for all adults. To learn more, contact the Child Advocacy Program at 338-9844.
Jana McDermott is the executive director of the Child Advocacy Program of Chautauqua County in Jamestown.