Elizabeth Yore was special counsel to Harpo Inc., Oprah Winfrey’s production company. She also served as child protection counsel on a range of matters, including at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa. Yore was general counsel of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She served as the general counsel and director of the International Division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia. She consults on child protection issues with corporations, non profits and international child abuse cases and issues.
“No legacy is so rich as honesty.” William Shakespeare
The monster is now exposed and will spend the rest of his life behind bars. If 10 victims were named in the criminal complaint, many more are sitting on the sidelines suffering in silence, but secretly thinking, “Jerry finally got his.”
Yet again, the nation learned about the behavior of a child predator. Unlike the prevailing fiction of a creep in a raincoat, this predatory pedophile was a “pillar of the community” who was a man with “a heart of gold.” No one wanted to believe that a successful coach and seemingly caring philanthropist could be a pedophile. The friends and coworkers of Sandusky reinforced their denial with endless excuses: he was too busy to molest children; he gave his life for at risk kids; he was a living saint always helping troubled boys.
Defense witnesses testified that they never saw anything “inapprop riate between Jerry and the boys” from Second Mile, as if predators commit sexual child assaults in front of friends. Child sex abuse occurs behind close doors, in empty basements, in locked bedrooms, always in secret. The fact that there were eye-witness accounts of abuse from a Penn State janitor and from Mike McQuery, a grad student coach, is highly unusual. Those rare eye-witness accounts demonstrate the recklessness and predatory nature of Sandusky’s brazen behavior.
So many opportunities missed when the university, Second Mile, child protective services and even law enforcement could have stopped Sandusky, but chose not to care. So many powerful people should have intervened and exposed his sexual rampage of young boys. No heroes stood up for children and against the powerful Sandusky. Besides the heroism of the victims who testified, the single mothers stand out, and alone, for their bravery to contact law enforcement authorities about Sandusky.
Unlike the Penn State community, they weren’t impressed or afraid of Sandusky. They simply wanted justice for their children and to stop this man from abusing other children.
Countless Sanduskys are roaming among us in schools, in our community and in our families. These guys are smart, manipulative and in “respectable” jobs. Many are “pillars in the community” who use their power to deflect any suspicion. How do we stop them? Listen to children and look for the subtle signs of child abuse. Children must be believed and we must shout from the rooftops until the police arrest these guys and bring them to justice.
When society’s protective instinct for children is stronger than its denial, only then, will children be saved from this daily nightmare. The inestimable damage done by Sandusky robbed his victims of their precious and deserved innocence. Some of his victims were in trouble with the law, others suffered from addictions and other dysfunctional behaviors. Here is the fallout of child abuse: When boys are abused, their pain is manifested outwardly toward the society that failed to protect them. The scourge and shame of sexual abuse lasts a lifetime, damaging their dreams, their relationships and their lives. Sexual abuse, left hidden and untreated, will contaminate the fabric of our country.
The cameras and reporters will soon leave the courthouse at Bellefonte, Pa., and move on to report the next “breaking story.” The case of Sandusky provides the country an opportunity to stop, wake up and insist that children must be a priority. Adults must be vigilant and protective of children. They must care enough to report suspected abuse. They must care more about children than sports, or celebrity, or money, or power.