Shocked by a child sexual abuse case in Happy Valley? Why not?
The story of our children — our communities’ most vulnerable members, being abused sexually or otherwise, by someone they trusted, someone with intrinsic power and control over them, is not new.
The story of those in control who choose not to use their power to help others by calling suspected violators in question is not new.
The story of how abuse can occur from a brother to a sister, a caretaker to an elder adult, a teacher to a student, a parent to a child, a spouse to his/her partner, a clergy member, politician, manager or superior to an underling, is not new.
The story of a community within a community, insulated from consequences from the outside world, is not new.
The story of witnesses and victims finding the courage to “tell” just to learn it did not bring justice for their pain or protect the innocent, is not new.
The story that no amount of good deeds or community standing can take away the physical and psychological pain one person can inflict upon another, is not new.
The story of a victim mustering the courage over decades of silence and fear to face his/her offender and the community that will serve as judge and jury, is not new.
What is new is the shock and hurt of a story, which brings such shame, as it should, to so many at one time, that it provides a crystal opportunity that cannot be ignored.
What is new is that one of the largest, most respected universities in the country must be an example for others to learn that no individual is beyond reproach; that crimes must be adjudicated, ignorance must be eradicated and innocence must be protected.
What is new is that so many Penn State fans from around the world will learn from this story that abuse is a cycle of behavior inflicted from someone with power and control over someone in a less powerful position and where signs of physical violence is not always present.
What is new is that as educators, parents, clergy, business leaders and individuals of all ages we must help create safe environments to communicate and understand the real definitions of abuse and learn ways to identify, stop and prevent it.
What is new is that abuse of any kind is not just a family, school or private business matter any longer. It’s everyone’s business. It’s a violation of human rights. It’s criminal.
What is new is the tremendous opportunity our business leaders, media, parents and educators now have on the heels of National Domestic Abuse Awareness Month [October] to raise awareness of the definitions of abuse, how to escape an abusive relationship and where to turn for help.
(Rochelle Sufrin, a public relations and marketing consultant, Penn State alumnus and former president of the Penn State Collegian Alumni Interest Group, is a domestic violence advocate. She is a co-chair of Council of Domestic Violence Coalitions for Jewish Women International, former interim director of the Jewish Domestic Abuse Task Force of Pittsburgh and domestic violence prevention consultant for Ladies Hospital Aid Society. She can be reached at email@example.com.)