Had Jerry Sandusky been a Boy Scout leader, there likely would not have been a "sex scandal" at Penn State University (PSU).
Imagine the following scenario...
Upon receiving a report that local Scoutmaster Jerry Sandusky had been observed showering with a boy, late at night in a seemingly abandoned PSU locker room, University officials reported the incident to the Board of Sandusky's Boy Scout troop.
After being informed of the incident, a discussion ensued among a small group of the troop's Board members. One very prominent member stood up and defended Sandusky's actions, stating he didn't think it was a big deal that a scoutmaster had showered with one of the scouts. He added that men and children shower every day at the YMCA and the issue seemed to be a "non-starter." He told the other Board members not to take it to the full Board for a decision. The report was stopped dead in its tracks.
Ten years later, Sandusky was charged with the abuse of 8 boy scouts. The investigative report revealed that PSU officials had alerted the Boy Scout troop about Sandusky and that its Board took no action. As a result, more scouts were subjected to abuse.
What would the media have done with this information?
Would it have blamed PSU for not fulfilling its "moral obligation" to protect the boy scouts?
Or would it have put the blame where it belonged -- on the scout troop's board?
The answer is obvious, given that there were cover ups of prior sex abuse cases in the Boy Scouts. It would have become a story of national interest
But The Second Mile (TSM) wasn't the Boy Scouts.
As one PSU graduate in journalism recently tweeted....
Selling newspapers and getting clicks trumps the truth every time.
Note the next tweet by Amy Z. Quinn's employer....
There are numerous ways that so-called journalists could reference Jerry Sandusky, such as "convicted child molester" or "serial child molester," however, as the latter tweet confirmed, the media didn't believe that Sandusky's name was nearly as important (to garnering readers) as his association with PSU.
Sadly, that has been the case from the alleged leak of the Sandusky charges and subsequent press release by the Office of Attorney General (OAG). The press ran with the OAG's story apparently without the least bit of fact checking.
Had they done any research at all, they would have learned that the unknown charity called The Second Mile (TSM) was located in a county with a history of covering up serial child sex abuse cases. A former TSM board member, Judge Bradley Lunsford, was involved in one of the decisions that kept the lid on a prior abuse case.
So much for investigative journalism.
The media pack pushed on, ignored TSM, made Sandusky a secondary player in the scandal, put Penn State at the forefront, and totally whiffed on the lessons learned and improvements for protecting children that should have emanated from the scandal.
Child Safety And Youth Service Organizations
Back in 2011 and 2012, the media did a disservice to the public by not highlighting many basic oversight problems that existed at The Second Mile charity.
Interestingly, it took Bruce Heim's emergence from his bunker for one publication to finally state what most close followers of the case have known for years.
Heim, who said, “Nobody in the Second Mile had any inkling that he had done anything wrong…. If you don’t believe it, then why hasn’t there been one charge brought against the Second Mile?” That isn’t the question. Sandusky was the sexual abuser. The Second Mile board was guilty, however, not of sexual abuse, but of being deaf, dumb, and blind...
The same cannot be said for TSM.
Friend Fitness ProgramAfter Sandusky was charged and eventually convicted, the charity continued its Friend Fitness program -- a program designed to team a child an an adult in one-on-one workouts, with the adult serving as a trainer.
Sandusky apparently used the program a means of getting children to go with him to work out in one-on-one, unsupervised situations. Many of the convictions in the case were based on his use of the program to coax unsuspecting children into showering after workouts. Not only did The Second Mile endorse and utilize this high risk program, but none other than Bruce Heim propagated it to another youth service organization outside Philadelphia.
|The Friend Fitness program continues|
The program survived and was transferred to Arrow Ministries.
The Centre Daily Times reported many of the facts of the above, yet it also avoided tying the charity's program to many of Sandusky's crimes.
So did the rest of the media -- and the Sandusky prosecutors.
Media Lacked Curiosity About Charity's Controls
When the Harrisburg Patriot News and other news outlets reported about TSM's knowledge of Sandusky's inappropriate conduct, they downplayed the significance of the incidents and failed to investigate/verify if the charity had appropriate controls in place.
In an August 2012 series, Sara Ganim reported (my emphasis added):
"Sandusky was stubborn, she (Bonnie Marshall) said. He often fought with Genovese about programming, and — before the accusations — he had free reign to spend time alone with kids.
According to the grand jury presentment, Curley told Raykovitz only that someone had witnessed something inappropriate, it was investigated and the result was to tell Sandusky not to shower on campus with kids.
“For five years, I worked out at the football facility, several times a week, and saw Jerry showering with children,” he (Bruce Heim) said. “I said I don’t think it’s relevant. It happens every day at the YMCA. I remember the conversation specifically because it seemed like a nonstarter because of what Penn State said went on.
The passage below was removed from the August 2012 series and placed behind a "pay-wall," thus is no longer freely available on the Patriot News web-site (but can be found at The Non Profit Quarterly).
A Children and Youth Services official informed Genovese that she needed to sever a relationship with Second Mile because of the situation with Sandusky. According to “several people with knowledge of that conversation,” Ganim writes, Genovese responded by telling the official that, “We’ve had to tell him to back off certain kids before.”
The Associated Press reported a similar version (my emphasis added).
"And the head of Clinton County's child welfare agency, where the 2008 investigation began, said Raykovitz's wife told him in November 2008 that Sandusky had been spoken to about getting "too close" to children involved with the charity. Gerald Rosamilia said Raykovitz's wife, Katherine Genovese, who helped run The Second Mile, did not define what was meant by "too close" or give a time frame.
Those examples reveal the media gathered information indicating that the charity understood Sandusky's conduct was questionable, but never consulted experts or contrasted The Second Mile's controls with those of other youth service organizations.
It appears that the media chose to be "deaf, dumb, and blind" when it came to looking into matters at The Second Mile.
While the Friend Fitness program was probably the best example of TSM's failure to assess the potential risks involved with its programs, the fact is that the charity had few rules in ensure the safety of its child participants.
One former counselor stated:
"...there was no formal training regarding our contact with the campers. There probably was some a brief training of appropriate boundaries and/or what constitutes an inappropriate/appropriate touch with campers, but there was no formal policy/procedure regarding this."
"To contrast, I worked a summer in college at a Boy Scout Camp, and there were very clear policies on not having one on one contact with minors at any time. We even joked that the BSA policy was so strict that parents had to make sure to have another person in the car in order to drive their children home. TSM had nothing as specific or strict by any means..."
As noted earlier, the media seemingly made no effort to investigate if any rules were in place that could have prevented or reduced the risk of Sandusky's abuse of children.
My investigation found that the Commonwealth has no rules or guidelines on appropriate and/or inappropriate physical contact or on interactions between adults and youths in child care services. That is clearly a gap in the system.
That said, many church based youth organizations have taken it upon themselves to establish guidelines, especially in the wake of the Roman Catholic Church sex scandal.
Inappropriate ContactsA number of organizations have published their own guidelines which outline the following inappropriate forms of contact with children. Many of the rules on their lists were violated by Sandusky (in bold), confessed to by Sandusky during his 2009 investigation (single asterisk) and included some in which TSM had knowledge (double asterisks).
|Sandusky's 2009 abuse finding was|
based, in part, on his own admissions
of inappropriate conduct with Victim 1
Kisses on the mouth
Holding children over four years old on the lap
Touching bottoms, chests or genital areas other than for appropriate diapering or toileting of infants and toddlers.
Showing affection in isolated areas such as bedrooms, closets, staff only areas or other private rooms*
Occupying a bed with a child or youth*
Touching knees or legs of children or youth*
Wrestling with children or youth
Tickling children or youth
|Evidence revealed Ex Dir|
Raykovitz provided $1800
of the charity's funds to
a former participant
for the purchase a car
Any type of massage given by a child or youth to an adult
Any type of massage given by an adult to a child or youth
Any form of unwanted affection**
Comments or compliments (spoken, written, or electronic) that relate to physique or body development. Examples would be, “You sure are developing,”or “You look really hot in those jeans.” Snapping bras or giving wedgies or similar touch of underwear whether or not it is covered by other clothing.
Giving gifts or money to individual children or youth**
Private meals with individual children or youth
Interaction GuidelinesNext are examples of the rules regarding contacts by adult volunteers and children that have been established by many church groups. Contact rules that Sandusky violated are in bold face - with number 14 being especially relevant.
1. All Church Personnel who work with children and youth must agree to comply with the Diocese of Olympia Guidelines for Appropriate Affection with Children and Youth.
2. No person will be allowed to volunteer to regularly work with children or youth until the person has been known to the clergy and congregation for at least six months.
3. Programs for infants and children under six years old will have procedures to ensure that children are released only to their parents or legal guardians or those designated by them.
4. Church Personnel are prohibited from using, possessing, distributing, or being under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or misusing legal drugs or prescription medications while participating in or assisting with programs or activities specifically for children and youth.
|Genovese was aware|
of Sandusky's 1 to 1
contacts with children
6. Church Personnel will respond to children and youth with respect, consideration and equal treatment, regardless of sex, race, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, culture or socioeconomic status. Church Personnel will portray a positive role model for children and youth by maintaining an attitude of respect, patience and maturity. They will avoid even the appearance of favoritism.
7. One-to-one counseling with children and youth will be done in an open, public or other place where private conversations are possible but occur in full view of others.
8. Church Personnel are prohibited from dating or becoming romantically involved with a child or youth.
9. Church Personnel are prohibited from having sexual contact with a child or youth.
10. Church Personnel are prohibited from possessing any sexually oriented materials (magazines, cards, videos, computer files, e-mails, films, clothing, etc.) on church property or in the presence of children and youth except as expressly permitted as part of an educational program that is pre-authorized by the rector, vicar or canonical equivalent.
11. Church Personnel are prohibited from using the Internet to view or download any sexually oriented materials on church property or in the presence of children and youth.
12. Church Personnel are. prohibited from discussing their own sexual activities, including dreams and fantasies, or discussing their use of sexually oriented or explicit materials such as pornography, videos or materials on or from the Internet, with children or youth.
13. Church Personnel are prohibited from sleeping in the same beds, sleeping bags or tents with other children or youth unless the adult is an immediate family member of the children or youth in the bed, sleeping bag or tent. An adult may sleep in the same hotel room with no fewer than three other children, providing the adult and all children are of the same sex. The adult must sleep alone in a bed or on a cot or rollaway bed. The adult must never be alone with a child. The adult will use the bathroom facilities alone, dressing/undressing in the bathroom with the door closed and with no children present. Exception to the above is given if any of the children are related to the adult, in which case the adult may sleep in the same bed with a child who is an immediate family member. It is acceptable to have multiple adults sleep in one open space such as a parish hall or camp lodge with children or youth. A best practice rule is no situation in which one adult is alone with one child unless they are immediate family members.
14. Church Personnel are prohibited from dressing, undressing, bathing or showering in the presence of children or youth.
15. Church Personnel are prohibited from using physical punishment in any way for behavior management of children and youth. No form of physical discipline is acceptable. This prohibition includes spanking, slapping, pinching, hitting or any other physical force. Physical force may only be used to stop a behavior that may cause immediate harm to the individual or to a child, youth or others.
16. Church Personnel are prohibited from using harsh language, profanity, degrading punishment, or any mechanical restraint for behavior management.
17. Church Personnel are prohibited from participating in or allowing others to conduct any hazing activities or behaviors which could be construed as hazing.
The aforementioned guidelines were at the media's disposal if they so chose to compare what Bruce Heim and The Second Mile considered appropriate behavior to what the standards of conduct were in other organizations. Had they done so, they would have come to understand the leadership of the charity was negligent in ensuring the safety of its child participants.
There is no evidence that this type of analysis occurred -- and especially not from the reporter and newspaper that won the Pulitzer prize for its "courageous reporting" of the "Penn State sex scandal."
Sensationalism Trumped Safety
The CPSL violations and organizational failures that occurred in 2001 and 2009 by TSM went unreported by the media in the time leading up to the December 2011 establishment of the PA Task Force on Child Protection.
Subsequent reporting, up until August 2012, did little to shine a spotlight on the failures of the charity and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Office of Children and Youth Services.
Instead, media reports focused on unproven -- and completely unsupportable -- allegations that a failure to report Sandusky in 2001 was the cause of Sandusky's crime spree. As a result, the Task Force mistakenly focused on revising reporting laws instead of fixing more serious problems in the child protective services system and in the oversight of child care services.
The Patriot News was the lead media reporter on the case was also the worst offender -- and got journalism's biggest prize as a result.
The Patriot News' decision to sensationalize the story -- and make it about a "Penn State sex scandal" -- caused essential protective services to be steered away from the children that needed it the most.
The newspaper's significant influence on narrative of the scandal caused the actions of the Task Force to be wrongly focused on child abuse reporting instead of the mandates to protect children, such as plans of supervision/protection, that caseworkers failed to put in place AFTER child abuse reports were made in 1998 and 2008.
In summary, the Patriot News biased reporting on the Sandusky scandal -- to this day -- has kept Pennsylvania's children in harm's way.
Those of us who are acutely aware of the failures in the Sandusky case and other abuse cases have continued to press forward, working behind the scenes to ensure the needed reforms to the child protection system receive attention.
One area that remains a problem outside of the current operations of the child protection system is the lack of state-wide standards or guidelines for youth service organizations. Had those standards been in place in 2001 or earlier, they could have possibly curtailed Sandusky's free reign with his victims. Establishing the standards is among the things on our "to do" list.
Unlike the media, Old Main, and the gullible masses, we are not moving forward until the truth is known and Pennsylvania's children get the protection they deserve.