Jerry Sandusky didn’t take the stand in his own defense today. The child sex abuse trial that has been center stage at least in Pennsylvania, should be drawing to a close soon – thankfully so. If the testimony presented by the prosecution witnesses did not turn one’s stomach, then the retaliatory spewing of Dottie Sandusky defending her husband on the stand must have.
But, no matter how fascinating it may be to watch the slow motion train wreck that is the Sandusky trial, the fact remains that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enabled the man to do what he did – assuming, of course, that he did anything inappropriate in the first place.
While Pennsylvanians might have really liked to see the Penn State administrators that turned a blind eye on Sandusky end up paying for it legally, they will probably have to settle for just seeing their careers in shreds. There have only been three successful cases against individuals that failed to report abuse in the Commonwealth, and the penalties they suffered were laughable. But, that isn’t too surprising, because our laws are extremely vague, and even the experts that are charged with educating “required reporters” on their duties to children cannot offer real definitions of abuse. If the Sandusky mess didn’t make you ill, then the investigative report by Pittsburgh’s ABC affiliate, WTAE, will definitely do the trick. Beyond the problems with real definitions of abuse, and defining the real duties of required reporters, Pennsylvania law is so vague that it is possible for someone to leave welts on a child, and not be charged with abuse.
This issue should be resolved legislatively, and quickly. But given the lack of efficiency in the Pennsylvania legislative branch, and more importantly, the partisan bickering, that’s not likely to happen. On a search of bills in Pennsylvania, using the keyword “abuse”, there are 371 results. Obviously, not all of them are related to child abuse, but there are a few in that list. Yes, they do seem to be intended to address some of the deficiencies in the current laws that have been brought in the spotlight by Sandusky. However, they are little more than band-aids on bullet wounds, primarily because they do not address the issues of vague definitions of abuse throughout the law, and highly restrictive requirements to prove abuse is occurring at all in the first place. In trying to err on the side of caution, our legislators have made it far too difficult to prove abuse, and even more difficult to hold adults that should be required to report abuse accountable when they fail to do so. Now, if this was Texas, there might not even be a Sandusky trial – down there, they kill their child molesters, at least when they’re caught red-handed. While it’s definitely a horrific situation for that family down there, at least they don’t have to worry about being dragged through it over and over again. The man is dead, there won’t be a trial, so they can focus on healing and moving on. That’s the way it should be.