Letters: Be clear about Jerry Sandusky sex abuse allegations: It's rape

Posted: November 14, 2011

AS THE NATION turns its eye to the commonwealth in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse allegations, this is a time to raise awareness about the potential of sexual-abuse in our communities. Children are sexually abused at alarmingly high rates in our country. The FBI estimates that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Although strangers do abduct children, the rate of stranger abductions is only about 0.0017 per 1,000 children. The real danger for children comes from neighbors, relatives, coaches, priests and teachers. White, wealthy, heterosexual men with families and wives sexually abuse more than any other group of people.

In coverage of the Penn State case, the media is coding the rape in nice words like "sexual abuse," "sexual assault" or "inappropriate touching." These are violent acts. If you need to be reminded of how violent, look at the body of a small child and think how much pain would be involved in a brutal act. There may not be gory pictures of blood-soaked walls, as in traditional crime-scene photos, but don't fool yourself into thinking that nobody was hurt too badly by a little touching. Minimizing the truly violent nature of child abuse fuels the messages that offenders often tell themselves. Offenders have often groomed their victims so well that the offender thinks the abuse is a consensual act.

We have a collective moral responsibility to prevent, stop and report suspected abuse. It is law enforcement and child welfare's responsibility to determine what legal actions to take, but it is your responsibility to call Child Line at 1-800-932-0313. In every case of child sexual abuse that I know, which are many, some adult knew something was not right long before a call was made.

Jenna Mehnert, MSW, ACSW

Executive Director

National Association of Social Workers - Pennsylvania Chapter

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