One Woman’s Opinion

 One Woman’s Opinion

By:  Latoya V. Stevens

A pedophile faces punishment but will still receive his pension… Much of the country has followed the trial of Gerald Arthur “Jerry” Sandusky. He is the retired Penn State Assistant football coach convicted of 45 counts related to sexually abusing boys he met through his charity, The Second Mile. The organization was supposed to serve underprivileged and at-risk youth in the state of Pennsylvania.

Sandusky served as an assistant coach for his entire career, mostly at Penn State University under Joe Paterno, and was one of the most notable major college football coaches never to have held a head coaching position. He received Assistant Coach of the Year awards in 1986 and 1999. Sandusky authored several books related to his football coaching experiences. In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile. Prosecutors say that is where he found his male victims. But at least 20 of the incidents allegedly took place while Sandusky was still employed at Penn State.

In 2011, following a two-year grand jury investigation, Sandusky was arrested and charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15-year period. Four of the charges were later dropped, leaving 48 counts remaining. On June 22, 2012, Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of the 48 charges. According to legal experts, Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

College Cover-Up?

Penn State has been under fire from the media and the general public over the Sandusky scandal. Several members of its staff, ranging from the University President, to head football coach Joe Paterno, down to a graduate assistant, have been accused of covering up Sandusky’s alleged crimes. Charges have been launched that Penn State was more concerned with preserving its image than protecting innocent children.

According to the first indictment, in 2002 assistant coach Mike McQueary, then a Penn State graduate assistant, said he walked in on Sandusky anally raping a ten-year-old boy. The next day, McQueary reported the incident to Paterno, who informed Penn State athletic director Tim Curley. Ultimately, it is alleged that officials never informed police. They merely barred Sandusky from bringing children to the football building, took away his keys to the locker room, and reported the incident to Second Mile. These actions were approved by school president Graham Spanier. The indictment accused Curley and Schultz not only of failing to tell the police, but also of falsely telling the grand jury that McQueary never informed them of the alleged sexual activity.

In June, Penn State University implemented a policy to require mandatory reporting of child abuse by any Penn State employee working with children. The policy also requires all Penn State employees working with children to go through a background check and training related to child abuse and reporting requirements.

Jerry Sandusky may be in prison, but that hasn’t brought an end to his pension payments According to the State Employees’ Retirement System, the convicted child molester received a lump sum payment of $148,272 upon retirement. But he has also been getting monthly payments, and that won’t be ending anytime soon. He is currently receiving more than $4900 a month.

So why would Pennsylvania continue to pay a convicted pedophile?

According to SRS, the only way it is allowed to stop making payments to a participant is if the recipient is convicted of what is known as an Act 140 crime. But, according to the Act 140 list, those crimes don’t include the ones for which Sandusky was found guilty. At that time of his sentencing, SERS will review the sentence to see if the crime has triggered pension forfeiture.

State leaders say legislation is pending in the General Assembly that would broaden the list of offenses which trigger forfeiture of a public pension. Currently, the conviction for rape or any other sexual offense will trigger forfeiture, but only if the offender is a school employee and the victim is a student.

How can we do a better job of protecting our children?

We must first arm ourselves with information. Too often the public is not aware of archaic laws and policies on the books until a case like this arises. The fact that someone who worked in state education could avoid financial penalties simply by abusing children that are not his students is disturbing to say the least. It is a legal loophole that must be closed immediately.

One a broader scale, these recent events have placed a spotlight on a growing group of victims that is not often discussed.  Experts say sex trafficking and abuse of young boys is an issue that no one seems to want to talk about.  They say one in six boys, 12 million in the United States alone; have been abused by the age of 16. And that abuse has been at the hands of men with wives and children.

As parents or simply as adults who can provide safe harbor to children who are abused, we must be on alert.  It starts with being observant to a child’s behavior and interaction with an adult.  It is also paying close attention to adults who seem to interact with a certain child in an unusual or concerning manner.  Then we must not be afraid to ask questions and listen to a child who may be crying out for help.  While this is not an issue that can be resolved overnight, it is up to us to work toward changing the statistics and ensuring those guilty of abuse are punished.

 

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