For many, the sentencing of Jerry Sandusky for his sexual abuse of 10 boys over 15 years couldn’t come soon enough. Sandusky’s abusive behavior and Penn State’s initial response has been a painful reminder of ways in which adults and organizations fail to protect our vulnerable children. The unprecedented NCAA sanctions against Penn State and the more general condemnation of some colleges’ over-the-top, win-at-any-cost culture of sports has been an eye-opener. Our surprise has not been that this culture exists, but with the fact that it can so dramatically compromise the safety of our children.

For all that is disturbing about this case and all those who have been harmed, there is the potential for good to come from what we have learned.

Estimates suggest that each day tens of millions of youth participate in activities that could be made safer by systematic prevention activities. Although many organizations already incorporate prevention efforts, all organizations working with children or teens would benefit from stronger screening policies, regular self-assessment, and greater efforts to empower staff to keep youth safety in the forefront. The Sandusky case also reminds us that we need to do more to educate parents and the public about the everyday role they can play in creating safer environments for children.

In the long run, the real tragedy of the Sandusky case will be measured by how we respond to this tragedy. Child sexual abuse is preventable, and there is a role for all of us. Take time today to find out what you can do in your community to make the world safer for all of our children.

Becky Palmer

Oak Park

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