Both appear to have viewed their actions as normal. But to those of us who know better, who have worked on cases involving childhood sexual abuse, we know that the explanations and protestations of people like Sandusky and Jackson are just how pedophiles think - and act.
To be sure, Jackson was never convicted of child sexual abuse, although he paid millions to settle at least one case out of court. Sandusky now has an aggressive attorney and a public pronouncement of innocence.
The key here is figuring out who we can and cannot trust with our children. And to do that, we need information. So, here is a simple three-pronged proposal I would urge each state to adopt:
First, states must establish a special hot line so that every adult who has information or reason to suspect child sexual abuse can report his or her suspicions to personnel specifically trained in how to take the information and where to relay the report.
Second, the mandated reporting laws must be changed. All adults who are aware of child-sexual-abuse accusations must be required to report the abuse to the authorities, or face serious penalties. If a well-planned hot line is set up, this should not be onerous.
In addition, institutions and organizations should face criminal penalties for failure to report child sex abuse occurring within or because of the institution.
Third, laws preventing those victimized as children from pursuing legal remedy as adults must be changed. The statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse in most states are too short. In Pennsylvania, victims must come forward by the time they are 30 for civil suits and 50 for criminal prosecution. Five years ago, the statutes of limitation were even shorter, so for many victims in Pennsylvania, their claims expired and they are therefore shut out of the justice system.
Now, those in power who somehow permitted children to be at risk need to be seen under brighter light. The status quo is intolerable. If we want the world to be a better place for our children, we must demand accountability and legal reforms that make it happen. Now!
Marci A. Hamilton is the Paul R. Verkuil Professor of Public Law at Yeshiva University in New York. She's the author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children and holds two master's degrees from Penn State.