Tuesday, January 30

Needed Solutions for the Nassar Problem

As the NCAA and Congress get ready to meddle in the Nassar case and waste everyone's time and money by figuring out who to punish for not reporting, here are the reforms that should be made to protect children from the Larry Nassar's of the world.

Ray Blehar
January 30, 2018, 8:13 PM EST

The NCAA and Congress are jumping into the Michigan State University (MSU) and USA Gymnastics failures with both feet to find out why there were reporting failures in those organizations.

If the NCAA does what it did in the Sandusky case -- the blame will be placed on the "culture" at MSU that favored athletics over common decency.  The results of the NCAA investigation will be unhelpful to protect against future sexual abuse of children at MSU or elsewhere.

The Congress has already passed a bill mandating that governing bodies of amateur sports must call police in the event of reports of child abuse.  It won't prevent another Nassar situation from occurring.

The familiar vows of University trustees that this "can never happen again" will also do nothing to stop the next Nassar because their views, like those of Congress and the NCAA,  are informed by sensational news reports -- and not the full facts of the case.

Speaking of facts, the NCAA, Congress, MSU, the media, and and the public need to accept this one:

Focusing corrective action on reporting alone will not make children any safer and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has the facts to prove it. 

In the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal, the Pennsylvania legislature -- based on media reports, not the full facts or advice from experts -- made knee jerk changes to the mandatory reporting laws that ended up crushing the Commonwealth's child protection system.

To be fair, some of the changes, like expanding the definition of child abuse, requiring multi-disciplinary teams to investigate, and those who are perpetrators were very good.   However, expanding the scope of enumerated individuals as mandatory reporters and increasing the penalties for not reporting abuse were counterproductive. 

According to Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale's 2016 State of the Child report, those changes resulted in over 42,000 missed calls to the child abuse hot line in 2015.

If you think that's bad, then prepare for something even more staggering.

DePasquale also reported (my emphasis added):

“We spent nearly $2 billion dollars in 2016, yet 46 children died and 79 nearly died from abuse that year. What really disturbs me is that nearly half of the children who died were in families that were already known to CYS.”

The other sad fact about the 2015 statistic is that it was essentially the same as statistics in 2009 -- before the Sandusky "reforms" were made.

Congress, NCAA, Michigan Attorney General -- are you listening?

Maybe you can save yourselves a lot of time and effort by reading the PA Auditor General's report and noting that when Michigan Children's Protective Services (CPS) and Pennsylvania's (Centre County) Children and Youth Services (CYS) were called about Nassar and Sandusky, that they failed to keep them away from children.

If you can't count on CPS/CYS to protect kids, then what can be done?

Here is solution #1.

#1 Public Education About "Nice Guy" Offenders

Kyle Stephens, the only non-gymnast/non-sports victim in the Nassar case, described one of the symptoms of "Nice Guy" offender cases as "diseased societal thinking that kept one hundred plus victims quiet for decades."

In other words, victims won't come forward and disclose the actions of perpetrators like Larry Nassar and Jerry Sandusky because they they fear they will not be believed.   In Nassar's case, her and the fears of the other victims were realized.

Even when the victims reach an age when they can attempt disclose what happened to them, shame, guilt, and embarrassment often cause them to downplay or otherwise not fully disclose what happened to them.   Reports are often vague.

Kyle Stephens: Parents need to learn the warning signs.

Stephens then identified the top solution to combat the problem:

“Parents need to learn the warning signs.  And they need to believe their kids.”

In the Jerry Sandusky case, the mother of eventual Victim 6 immediately picked up on a few of the warning signs that her child had been victimized. She noted that he had showered two times in the eleven hours subsequent to showering with Sandusky  -- very unusual behavior for an eleven year old boy.  Also, her son left clues about being uncomfortable about what transpired.   Unsure of what to do given Sandusky's great reputation, she contacted the boy's psychologist who confirmed that she was not over-reacting and advised the mother to contact the police.

After an interview with Victim 6, the psychologist, Dr. Alycia Chambers, received permission to release a report of her interview to Pennsylvania child protective services and the police.  The ensuing investigation by Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare agent Jerry Lauro determined that Sandusky was not a risk to children.

That leads us to Solution #2.

#2 Better Training for Caseworkers & More of Them

Michigan CPS received two complainta about Nassar from Kyle Stephens and, just as in the Sandusky case, CPS did nothing to stop him.   Had it recognized Nassar's abuse then, the victimization of McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, and others might have been prevented.

As noted above, in 1998 Pennsylvania child protection workers similarly failed to identify Jerry Sandusky as a danger to children.  Had it decided differently and stopped Sandusky's access to children, there would have been no abuse in the cases of  Victims 1, 2, 3, 5, and 9 and some of the abuse of Victim 4 could have been prevented.

Many of the details of the 1998 Sandusky investigation have been made public through court filings.  At least a dozen signs of possible child sexual victimization were observed and/or reported.  Not only that, but the interview transcripts of Victim 6 revealed intent -- as Sandusky turned on two showers (for he and the victim) long before the workout was over.

When Sandusky was interviewed by police and caseworkers, he admitted to doing the same with other boys (aside from the TWO that were uncovered during the investigation).  In hindsight, all of the indicators were there to -- at a minimum -- determine Sandusky should not be allowed to access children (even if he was not charged with crimes).

But Sandusky's reputation and his ability to use deception to make something sinister appear to be something innocent stopped them from indicating abuse.

Kyle Stephens allegations against Nassar were far more graphic and detailed, but Nassar fooled CPS workers in the same way Sandusky did.

Foot stomp:  Calls were made to the people who are paid with our tax dollars to ensure the safety and welfare of our children -- and they failed.

The PA Auditor General summed up the caseworker issues as follows:

- Difficult finding enough qualified professionals;
- Inadequate training to handle the job;
- Heavy caseloads and burdensome paperwork;
- Remarkably low pay, leading to
- Breath-taking turnover rates.

Fixing the system is a mighty big challenge and it needs to be resolved.  However doing that will not prevent the initial victimization,

That leads  us to Solution #3.

#3 Standards for Youth Organizations & Enforcement

Another commonality between the Sandusky and the Nassar cases is that the organizations that  employed them either did not have or did not enforce standards for interactions between children and adults.

While it is not clear when USA Gymnastics established it standards for safety, its 2015 version covers most of the basic do's and don'ts for adult and child interactions.   The issue for USA Gymnastics, as laid bare by scores of Nassar victims, was enforcing those standards.

From page 5 of the guide:

 Five common standards of behavior include: 
• Elimination of privacy 
• Boundaries if physical contact is a necessary part of the activity 
• Travel/transportation guidelines 
• Limitations on electronic, social and out-of-program interactions 
• Parental monitoring

Nassar, under the guise of treating athletes, was allowed to violate practically every one of the standards.

Violating standards is one thing...not having them at all is quite another.  And that was the case at The Second Mile.

According to Sandusky's autobiography, Touched, in 1977 he simply decided to start a children's charity and did it by the seat of his pants -- with no application for licensing or oversight by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  One of the first accomplishments of The Second Mile was the establishment of a group home for boys -- again, done without licensing or oversight from the state.

That licensing wouldn't come until years later as the charity began providing foster care placement services.

As far as rules went for adult and youth interactions -- there were none.  Sandusky and other adults were allowed unsupervised one-on-one access to children.  In fact, TSM's Friend Fitness (FF) program paired a child with an adult mentor for one-on-one unsupervised workouts.   One Centre County attorney who observed another adult volunteer working out with a child at a local gym noted that a "lot of unnecessary touching" occurred.

Rules about touching were undoubtedly absent as well.  In fact, the Executive Director of The Second Mile and licensed/practicing child psychologist, Dr. Jack Raykovitz was told by Penn State University's (PSU) Tim Curley that Sandusky was observed horsing around in a shower late at night with a child.  Dr. Raykovitz testified that in response to the PSU report, he advised Sandusky "wear a swimsuit" when he showered with children. 

Based on that statement alone, The Second Mile should have been roundly condemned -- by everyone -- for permitting Sandusky to violate one of the most basic safety rules concerning interactions with children.   Of course, because The Second Mile didn't have any rules, Sandusky wasn't in violation of anything except poor judgment (according to Dr. Raykovitz).

Common sense and safety demands that any organization that routinely has interactions with minor youths should be required to have those rules and enforce them.

But incredibly, the Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose Bureau of Consumer Affairs is responsible for oversight of charities, didn't have a care or concern about how Dr. Raykovitz and The Second Mile handled the 2001 shower report.

The Bureau of Consumer Affairs seems like an unlikely place to field child protective services complaints and few people understand that to be its role.  In fact, the chairman of Pennsylvania's Task Force on Child Protection, Judge David Heckler, stated that any complaints from parents about poor family and/or protective services should be made to their respective county commissioners.

Given that the head of PA's Task Force didn't know how a parent elevates a child protection complaint, what are the chances that a parent would know?

That leads us to Solution #4.

#4 Independent Child Advocate/Ombudsman

An independent Office of Child Advocate/Ombudsman exists in 22 states while another five states have Ombudsman to handle all types of complaints.  Michigan has such an office while Pennsylvania does not.

In general, these offices exist to:
- Handle and investigate complaints from citizens and families related to government services for children and families - this may include child protective services, foster care, adoption and juvenile justice services.
Provide a system accountability mechanism by recommending system-wide improvements to benefit children and families - often in the form of annual reports to the Legislature, Governor and public. 
Protect the interests and rights of children and families - both individually and system-wide.
Monitor programs, placements and departments responsible for providing children's services - which may include inspecting state facilities and institutions.

Kyle Stephens complained to county agents twice about Larry Nassar. She reported him to counselors and she testified to a medical board.   Yet none of these people deemed Nassar a danger to children nor did any of them apparently inform Stephens she could complain to the Michigan Office of Children's Ombudsman (OCO).

Would the OCO have made a difference in the Nassar case?  Who knows, but at least that avenue was available to her.
In states without an ombudsman, the most common means of reporting concerns about the results of an investigation is to go to the state level child protection agency or back to the county agency for redress.  According to social workers and families interviewed by notpsu.blogspot.com, they believe there is "politicization" of the process. 

In Sandusky's case, he  had a long-term relationship with child protective services as a foster parent and an adoptive parent.  He had undergone reviews for over 20 years and passed every time and therefore county agents knew him as a Pillar of the Community were reluctant to investigate  complaints against him in 1995 and 1998.  

Family members similarly complained that once a child had been placed with a custodial parent, foster parent, and/or adoptive parent through the courts, it was nearly impossible to convince CYS to open an abuse investigation of that individual.   If they complained repeatedly or raised the issue to the state level, CYS sometimes threatened them or retaliated.  

CYS retaliation over abuse reports can be quite severe.  In one case, Clearfield County psychologist Jim Singer lost his license over an abuse report he made that saved a girl's life.

Singer had nowhere to turn for help in Pennsylvania nor did the rest of the parents.  

These parts of the Pillar of the Community/Nice Guy cases are never mentioned as the media, law enforcement, and other interlopers, like Louis Freeh, jump in to lead the public to believe that Sandusky or Nassar could have been stopped with a single phone call -- and that's all it will take to stop the next one.

If the proper solutions aren't implemented the ground will remain fertile for more Larry Nassars and Jerry Sanduskys.


  1. Replies
    1. mhentz,
      In 1995, Debra Long (the birth mother of Matt Sandusky) complained to Centre County officials about Matt's foster care with the Sandusky family. She noted that he didn't begin acting out or having problems until he came in contact with Jerry (through The Second Mile).

      A school probation officer also raised concerns over Matt's suicide attempt in 1995 and asked the court to review the foster care situation with the Sandusky's.

      Matt wrote a letter to the court stating he wanted to remain in the Sandusky's care and apparently the court honored his wishes (without conducting any review).

      In Matt's book, Undaunted, he noted that no one from CYS was contacted about his suicide attempt to determine if there was a protection issue. Interestingly, I've spoken with another family who had a daughter that was subjected to sexual abuse and attempted suicide several times. CYS didn't do anything about her case either.

  2. I certainly support recommendations 1 to 3. The Boy Scout's Youth Protection program seems to be a model program for 1 and 3.

    Regarding #1, it should include education for more than parents. It should educate children and youth workers too the way the Boy Scouts do. There already are Stranger Danger programs for children where they are taught to scream and run away if a stranger tries to abduct them but those programs don't deal with "nice guy" molesters.

    The Boy Scouts have "three R's" of Youth Protection:

    - Recognize that anyone could be a molester.
    - Respond when someone is doing something that goes against your gut or against the safety guidelines.
    - Report attempted or actual molestation or any activity that you think is wrong to a parent or other trusted adult.

    Recommendation 4 on a Child Advocate/Ombudsman position seems the weakest of the four. Has a state Child Advocate ever stopped a child abuser after CPS and police failed?

    1. Tim,
      Agree that early childhood education is a must and I should have included it in #1 -- as you suggested.

      Regarding #4, the Ombudsman's oversight role is needed to monitor the effectiveness of CPS. In Pennsylvania, the Auditor General's report was 4 years after Sandusky and as I revealed, the system was operating in the same dysfunctional manner than it was in 2009. Moreover, if an Ombudsman existed in Pennsylvania, the parents could provide its staff with first hand accounts of how the system is failing.

    2. The PA Auditor General's report about CYS failures was scathing but received little attention. I'm not sure a Children's Ombudsman would do any better.

      The Michigan Office of Children's Ombudsman (OCO) puts out an annual report that has statistics on the number and type of complaints they handled. In 2016, OCO received 1276 complaints but only opened 173 investigations. The annual report did not indicate what happened in those 173 investigations.

      OCO also investigates deaths of children who where under CPS care. It makes no specific mention of child sexual abuse.

      It also makes recommendations to which the MI Dept. of Health and Human Services responds. It seems that all the OCO recommendations are shot down and go nowhere.

      The 2016 Annual Report was a whopping 4 pages. I could find nothing about any OCO recommendations that resulted in changes to laws or CPS procedures. I would think the OCO would want to highlight those accomplishments, if they had any.


    3. Tim,
      Victim advocates and child abuse prevention advocates across PA support the establishment of an Ombudsman.

      I read up on Michigan's OCO too. It appeared to almost exclusively investigate deaths resulting from child abuse. That said, Michigan's child death rate was four or five times higher than Pennsylvania's.

  3. Ray,

    These are excellent suggestions for improving state government resources and policies for child protection. Thank you for this, and let's hope they are implemented.

    How does this new corporation, The United States Center for SafeSport play into all of this? Why is it a corporation with a CEO and not a non-profit association with an executive director? Does the corporate status make it too powerful, possibly eliminating due process when investigating child abuse and determining guilt?

    My concern is that this corporation may be a way to bypass due process while giving a corporate entity and its lawyers too much power in determining guilt. Especially if it is determining guilt many decades after the alleged crime.

    In reading about this Safe Sport Authorization Act, it is stated that this corporation is a foot in the door to reform existing statute of limitations on rape accusations by extending them. It is asserted by Senator Susan Collins who co-authored the bill, that "children often don't know they've had crimes committed against them until much later into adulthood", and "this authorization act will allow victims to sue sex crimes perpetrators by extending the statute of limitations".

    Hmmmm, sounds like a good thing, a noble cause to champion. But to me, it just sounds like a way for corrupt lawyers and corrupt corporations to capitalize even more on their "victim industry". It doesn't really sound like protecting children is their actual foremost goal. This all sounds like a another cloaked money-making racket cooked up by the new "Corporate States of America".

    So this is where we're at in this country: get everyone hooked on the victim identity belief system (victimology), bring in "experts" using recovered memory therapy, and anyone who's tired of working can sue their so-called abuser even if they weren't abused. It's a corrupt win/win for lawyers and "victims". This is why we should be quite skeptical of these fishy rape scenarios that our "trusted" MSM/government presents to us as factual.

    But what about the children? Is the creation of this omnipotent corporate "protector", The U.S. Center for Safe Sport, really about the truth and the children? Or is it about more deception from our government?

    1. Truthseeker,
      According to the language in the CBO publication, The Center for Safe Sport operates as a non-profit. Many other corporations are non-profit -- in fact, Sandusky had The Second Mile incorporated and it (allegedly) operated as a non-profit.

      In my opinion, I think extending the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of sex crimes is a good thing. Many people do not come forward out of shame, embarrassment, or for other reasons when they were abused as children. As they become adults, they realize that it wasn't their fault and it was the fault of the perpetrator. No problem at all criminally prosecuting in that instance.

      Conversely, I am opposed to extending it for civil liability because in high profile cases, like Bill Cosby and yes, Jerry Sandusky, a few charlatans and their civil attorneys will show up for a pay day.

    2. When the US Constitution is amended to remove the ban on ex post facto laws, then states would be able to retroactively extend the statute of limitations (SOL).

      I believe the ban on ex post facto laws is a wise thing. There are good reasons for SOLs.

      Some states already have no SOL for criminal prosecution of child sex crimes. Surprisingly, AL is one of them, so failed US Senate candidate Roy Moore could still be prosecuted for his alleged sexual assault of a 14 year old decades ago. He won't be because of his influence and lack of evidence.

      AL has a very short SOL for civil claims for child sex crimes. It expires when the victim turns 21. If Jerry Sandusky had worked at U. of AL, they wouldn't have had to pay out as much in victim settlements as PSU did.

      PCAR says AG Shapiro supports an unconstitutional PA law that would remove the civil SOL for child sex crimes for 2 years.