It wasn’t a happy conversation. My family gathered in the kitchen – a rare occurrence now that my sister and I are grown and gone from the house, her married with a family of her own. But there we were, my parents and sister seated casually around the glass dining table cluttered with the day’s debris of old mail and cereal boxes. I perched myself on the counter by the sink – alternating between sitting upright on the black granite surface, and balancing on my side.

Our voices were quite but not hushed. The discussion had settled on Sandusky and the Penn scandal. Cain and Perry gaffes and political missteps pushed aside for the horror now dominating headlines.

My sister, distressed that someone’s comment to her piece in the Dallas Morning News was to dispute the statistics – not wanting to believe 1 in 3 girls or 1 in 6 boys. Her research aside, what would be an ok number? One in 10, one in 20? Would those stats make child abuse/child rape ok? Rather than fully digest the horror or think forward to solutions that person nitpicked details while the rest of us speculate about what we would have done.

But we can’t go back – not the folks who walked in and did nothing, or learned of it and did nothing, or all of us on the outside now looking in but who never looked in before- we can’t go back. All we can do is look forward. And looking forward only makes a difference if we’re forging a path to better.

In the kitchen last night my family tossed around ideas. Generally against suing we held fast that suing was one step on the path ahead. Suing Second Mile (Sandusky’s non-profit that gave him access to countless boys), Penn  State (who, despite knowing, did as close to nothing an institution can do without actually doing nothing). Sue and have money for the years of therapy that lay ahead.

But suing isn’t the answer, just a component. Our idea went beyond.

  • Create a foundation with some of that money and a non-profit to manage it. Keep trained therapists specialized in sexual abuse therapy on retainer to help mitigate the financial cost of seeking help (sometimes $100 a session for years to come) for Sandusky’s or anyone else’ victims.
  • The foundation should be a hub for resources and information – maybe nationally but definitely within Pennsylvania. Provide training for doctors, teachers, parents on what to look for. Provide support group information (,, books, whatever might be needed.
  • Penn State is known for some kind of major cancer fund raiser they do every year- the Thon. The university could sponsor a similar annual fundraising event with all proceeds going to the foundation to maintain its funding into perpetuity and to publicize the issue and the resources available.

My family’s conversation drifted to an end. It was late, my sister had to go and the rest of us headed to bed. I didn’t sleep for a little while, my brain fixated on all the Sandusky children we know about – the many more we most assuredly don’t. I thought about the different ways people have reacted, the person who commented on my sister’s piece, the students at Penn that rallied/rioted in support of JoPa, John Stewart and a myriad of others who raised their voices in support of victims.

When the din dies down – opinions turned to the next scandal to hit the news – I want there to be something substantive left in the wake. Something that doesn’t just condemn but contributes, doesn’t just berate but builds, doesn’t just grieve but gives something to those who can’t move on because the news cycle did.

At least one other person was thinking like my family. Chris Tickner (a professional specializing in child sexual abuse) added one additional thing to my list…research. The university as at its disposal a wealth beyond money – a wealth of intelligent people who conduct research. Why not research how good people did nothing? Or better ways to prevent – to treat? Why not disseminate that research to help other universities, churches, public institutions, from making such egregious errors in judgment and perpetuating harm to children.

Penn can’t make this right but they can make it better – they have to at least try.



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