Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Watershed Moments in the Fight for Justice for Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

Last week brought three watershed moments in the fight to bring accused pedophiles and their protectors to justice. Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 out of 48 charges of child sex abuse. Monsignor Lynn was convicted on 1 out of 3 charges of covering up abuse by pedophile priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes charged four Hasidic Jewish men with attempting to intimidate a witness in a child sexual abuse case after the D.A. was besieged by accusations of long-term deferential treatment of Rabbinic leaders who protect those accused of child sexual abuse in their Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish community.

The Washington Post June 22, 2012:
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky leaves court in handcuffs after being convicted in his child sex abuse trial at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pa.
The New York Times June 23, 2012:
Monsignor William J. Lynn, walking into court before the verdict reading. Monsignor Lynn was the first senior official of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States to be convicted for covering up child sexual abuses by priests.
Photo by Matt Rourke/AssociatedPress
The New York Times June 22, 2012
The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, who has been facing public criticism about his handling of sexual abuse allegations in the Williamsburg Orthodox Jewish community, on Thursday charged four men with attempting to silence an accuser by offering her and her boyfriend a $500,000 bribe, and threatening to take away the kosher certification of her boyfriend’s business.
Photo by Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

How appropriate that this all comes during PTSD Awareness Month, since post-traumatic stress disorder is such a common disorder for child sexual abuse survivors. Today has been designated as National PTSD Awareness Day by the United States Senate. Let's take a moment today to celebrate these watershed moments that can help child sexual abuse survivors feel more hopeful that our society is beginning to take their plight more seriously and hold abusers and their protectors accountable for all the suffering they have caused. 

Loss of hope is a common consequence for sexual abuse survivors that were not protected by the people that they trusted, whether it be coaches, clergy, law enforcement, teachers or family. Hopelessness makes it harder for survivors with PTSD to follow through with seeking help.  Renewed hope that there is justice in the world may be just what PTSD sufferers need in order to feel more hopeful that they can trust someone to help them to heal.

What do you think? What are your reactions to the above court cases? Do you have a different perspective that you would like to share?  I would love to hear from you.

You might also be interested in reading my November, 2011 post: "Reflections on the Penn State Sexual Abuse Scandal and a Call to Action".


  1. Ah, Andrea. Love that you gathered all this justice into one post. You rock!

    1. Thanks, Kathy! I appreciate all your wonderful feedback. I think you rock, too!


  2. Andrea,
    I agree that this is an important set of events. What has been incredibly sad is how long the distance between trauma and justice. Do you think it is realistic to shorten that gap?

  3. One common element to all these horrific tragedies from diverse backgrounds is adult men having power, control, and unsupervised access to youth and systems acting in concert to look the other way. Nice piece Andrea tying this strong confluence together of how child sexual abusers will not be protected anywhere.

    1. Hi Jeffrey,

      You make an excellent point about the common elements in all three of these cases. I agree that these events show it is becoming unacceptable in our society to protect child sexual abusers. Thanks for your comments.

      Best wishes,

  4. Hi Pearl,

    I feel sad about this too. I believe that a big part of the problem is how preoccupied law enforcement officials are with political ramifications in these high profile cases. This causes them to proceed very cautiously, out of concern for the potential consequences for their careers if the prosecution of a defendent supported by a valuable constituency falls apart.

    However, I also believe we are close to reaching the tipping point, where the political consequences of moving too slowly will outweigh the risks involved in zealously pursuing prosecutions of high profile defendants. The public outcry over the Brooklyn District Attorney’s collusion with Jewish Rabbinic leaders making their own validity determinations before involving the secular authorities is long overdue but may be an indicator of changing societal expectations. Hopefully this will shorten the gap.

    It is my fervent prayer that these societal changes will also lead to increased awareness of warning signs and increased willingness to involve the authorities so that we can better protect children.