‘Report any suspicion of the abuse of a child to law enforcement authorities’

Let’s turn to Penn State’s student paper, The Daily Collegian, for a summary of the scandal unfolding at the school — “Penn State President Graham Spanier, Head Coach Joe Paterno ousted by Board of Trustees“:

The Board of Trustees announced that Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno will no longer be employees of the Pennsylvania State University. …

The announcement comes five days after a grand jury presentment was released describing alleged incidents of sexual abuse by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was released. …

Sandusky faces 40 counts on seven different charges stemming from incidents where he allegedly sexually abused eight young boys from The Second Mile program — the non-profit organization he founded in 1977 for underprivileged children — in Penn State football locker rooms, his home and other locations.

Thousands of PSU students responded by rioting in anger — not over the failure of school officials to report the alleged rape of young children to legal authorities, but over the firing of their revered football coach.

Something Is Rotten at Penn State,” Andrew Sullivan writes, with an appropriate heartfelt anger:

That the structure of Penn State – and its creepy Paterno worship — allowed this to happen is bad enough. That the student body would rather side with a negligent football coach over a raped child is beyond belief.

ESPN.com’s Howard Bryant (via) writes wisely of “Penn State’s failure of power“:

Schultz, Curley, Spanier and Paterno are unwilling to admit being blinded by the power of Penn State football. That power prevented other, less powerful people from coming forward. Their first, fatal reaction was the impulse to protect the program, keep it from embarrassment, to protect personal relationships and now what’s left of the precious, sacred institution.

The power of the names Penn State and Paterno were, it is now revealed through chilling grand jury testimony, far more important than the children now forever renamed Victim 1 and Victim 2. According to the state grand jury investigation, at least four eyewitnesses say they saw Sandusky committing inappropriate acts with children, and Sandusky admitted another to one victim’s mother. Yet an entire community was cowed by the power of the institution. The past several days at Penn State have been a case study of Joe Paterno and the failure of power.

For each expression of outrage, we’ve been here before with the failures by churches, police departments and teams. Somewhere, each institution committed the fatal mistake of believing that power was not a privilege to be handled with great care and humility but instead a license to be above trust. The powerful often have forgotten whom they are supposed to serve.

And finally let me recommend a column by someone I normally do not recommend reading: Southern Baptist Archbishop Al Mohler, who provides some wise, practical advice in “The Tragic Lessons of Penn State — A Call to Action“:

I discovered yesterday that the policy handbook of the institution I am proud to lead calls for any employee receiving a report of child abuse, including child sexual abuse, to contact his or her supervisor with that report. That changes today. The new policy statement will direct employees receiving such a report to contact law enforcement authorities without delay. Then, after acting in the interests of the child, they should contact their supervisor.

Mohler candidly acknowledges the way that churches and other religious institutions tend to want to handle accusations of abuse internally. He explains why that’s “both deadly and wrong”:

Any failure to report and to stop the sexual abuse of children must be made inconceivable. The moral irresponsibility that Penn State officials demonstrated in this tragedy may well be criminal. There can be no doubt that all of these officials bear responsibility for allowing a sexual predator to continue his attacks.

What about churches, Christian institutions, and Christian schools? The Penn State disaster must serve as a warning to us as well, for we bear an even higher moral responsibility.

The moral and legal responsibility of every Christian — and especially every Christian leader and minister — must be to report any suspicion of the abuse of a child to law enforcement authorities. Christians are sometimes reluctant to do this, but this reluctance is both deadly and wrong.

Sometimes Christians are reluctant to report suspected sexual abuse because they do not feel that they know enough about the situation. They are afraid of making a false accusation. This is the wrong instinct. We do not have the ability to conduct the kind of investigation that is needed, nor is this assigned to the church. This is the function of government as instituted by God (Romans 13). Waiting for further information allows a predator to continue and puts children at risk. This is itself an immoral act that needs to be seen for what it is.

A Christian hearing a report of sexual abuse within a church, Christian organization, or Christian school, needs to act in exactly the same manner called for if the abuse is reported in any other context. The church and Christian organizations must not become safe places for abusers. These must be safe places for children, and for all. Any report of sexual abuse must lead immediately to action. That action cannot fall short of contacting law enforcement authorities.

That’s right. And it’s good that it’s someone like Al Mohler saying it, as he has influence with a broad audience that’s not likely to be paying attention to Sullivan or Bryant or others like them.

(It also has implications that may go beyond what Mohler himself realizes, but let’s save that discussion for a later post so that the compliment I wish to pay him for the post cited above doesn’t become barbed or backhanded here.)

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  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    I agree, Mohler’s response to this tragedy is excellent. ” Then, after acting in the interests of the child, they should contact their supervisor.”

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Mohler candidly acknowledges the way that churches and other religious
    institutions tend to want to handle accusations of abuse internally. He
    explains why that’s “both deadly and wrong”:

    Too bad the Roman Catholic Church of Canada’s top muckity-mucks tried going the wrong way from the 1960s to the early 1990s.

    I also can’t believe how people at Penn State are reacting like this coach dude is the victim here. (O.o)

  • MM

    According to this article:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2011/11/10/the_danger_of_joe_paterno_s_father_figure_mystique.html

    The coach guy is like some sort of grandfather figure / God figure in this community for some reason. He’s not the one accused of sexual abuse but he was involved in the cover-up and ignored pretty glaring allegations. This is such a disturbing story because it seems like these rioters have completely forgotten that this guy has responsibilities as well as prestige.

    This incident, and the rioting, show yet again why adding
    intermural sports to colleges and universities was a bad, bad, bad
    idea.  As Damon Runyon said: “Seduced by all that shiny football money,
    Alma Mammy has become a bit of a tramp.”

    Um… I’m not sure if you actually know what intramural sports are, but there is absolutely no money involved in it for anyone. And no one gets recruited for intramural sports teams. Don’t slander people who play intramural sports for fun by linking them to the exploitative program of big-time college football programs.

    I agree.
    However, to me the real test is: will the church of which he’s in charge
    (Southern Baptists?) really follow that? The Catholic Church has
    announced a change in how to deal with abuse several times in the past
    decades, but in a pinch and in reality, the old hierachy structures were
    still stronger than the new SOP rules.

    and

    I find it ironic, to say the least, that this Bishop’s sudden
    realisation that child abuse should be reported to law enforcement came
    after he heard of a succession of boys being raped by a sports coach,
    not after (for example) the rape of a fifteen-year-old girl and subsequent cover-up by her pastor.
    (The rapist, in this instance, remained a member of the congregation
    until his arrest, many years later – the pastor who protected the rapist
    is now employed at another church.)

    Why are you guys calling Al Mohler a “bishop”? He’s not a member of the Catholic Church and he’s not in charge of Southern Baptists in general (no one is, because it’s not one organization with a clearly-defined hierarchy). He is a member of theological seminary in Kentucky and serves on the board of a few right-wing conservative Christian groups like Focus on the Family. That’s it. He doesn’t have any official authority over any Southern Baptist churches or organizations that are unaffiliated with those and he’s definitely not a bishop, no matter how much he might personally like to be one.

  • Münchner Kindl.

    Why are you guys calling Al Mohler a “bishop”? He’s not a member of the
    Catholic Church and he’s not in charge of Southern Baptists in general
    (no one is, because it’s not one organization with a clearly-defined
    hierarchy). He is a member of theological seminary in Kentucky and
    serves on the board of a few right-wing conservative Christian groups
    like Focus on the Family. That’s it. He doesn’t have any official
    authority over any Southern Baptist churches or organizations that are
    unaffiliated with those and he’s definitely not a bishop, no matter how
    much he might personally like to be one.

    I didn’t call him a bishop, that was the other poster, and I did put a question mark because I have no idea what kind of official or unofficial standing Al Mohler has in his community, or what community, or how big that community, is. All I know from outside the US is that Fred often criticizes Al Mohler along with others for saying stupid things.

    I only wanted to say that I agree with Fred in praising Al Mohler for saying the right thing, but that showing that you and (the people who think your word is authorative and therefore are in a sense your followers/ community/ church/ whatever, ) actually DO what you SAID BEFORE is the real important thing.

    After all, the coach who was now fired, JoePa, was also officially a coach, not the President of the University, but in reality, he had total influence (According to what many sources say) and so when he didn’t follow proper procedure or fulfill his moral obligations of caring for children more than for the reputation of the program, then he’s responsible.

  • Josh

    Eric didn’t slander intramural sports. He said “intermural” sports.
    Which are the opposite. In other words, his argument implies that we should only have intramural
    sports.

  • Killoren

    Oh, my mistake then. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term “intermural sports” before (although it should exist). I still think that’s an unnecessarily broad condemnation though; the problem is with the large sports programs that seem to have so much money and control at certain universities, not with students who choose to organize ad hoc teams . By implying that either inter- or intramural sports is to blame is exceptionally broad; you might as well condemn all faiths for the actions of some Catholic priests.

    ust a pre-investigation to determine whether there is any case at all to
    investigate, before delivering someone’s life up on a plate.

    What would a pre-investigation look like? It’s a good concept but I just don’t see how it would work. The average person lacks the resources and the time to really conduct a thorough investigation. The average person doesn’t know what signs to look for investigating a child abuse case (or any major crime like that). I agree that you should ask a few questions first (although if you see a man violating a child in a shower it shouldn’t be that confusing, to be honest) but going too far beyond that essentially means that you’re substituting your own judgment and investigative skills for that of… well… trained investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, jurors, and judges. To me, that’s just as risky and even more likely of leading to disaster.

  • MikeJ

    When I was a kid, there was an incident of sexual abuse at my church.  The parents of the kid went to the minister and told what the deacon had been doing.  The pastor didn’t even answer the parents.  He picked up the phone and called the cops.   That’s pretty much the only acceptable answer.  I don’t understand why the dress wearing guys in Rome can’t figure that out.

  • Anonymous

    “I don’t understand why the dress wearing guys in Rome can’t figure that out.”

    How many of those dress wearing guys are parents themselves?

  • http://from1angle.wordpress.com emilyperson

    Hey, now, I’m not a parent and I got nauseated when I found out how the RCC and Penn State reacted to children being abused.

  • Anonymous

    Back in the day many of them were. Several Popes had children.

  • Anonymous

    “Back in the day many of them were.”

    Well, we’re not talking about “back in the day” are we? The point of my question is that none of the *current* Catholic Church hierarchy who are supposed to enforce whatever rules that the Church has about Priest-to-child contact are parents themselves; and, thus, have no basis on which to sympathize or empathize with the parents of their victims, let alone the victims themselves.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry if my snark missed the mark, you are absolutely correct sir

  • We Must Dissent

    How many of those dress wearing guys are parents themselves?

    Ah, yes. Because parents are inherently morally superior to those of us who choose not to breed.

  • Dan Audy

    Ah, yes. Because parents are inherently morally superior to those of us who choose not to breed.

    I don’t think parents are morally superior to non-parents but like any other major life activity it grants you a different perspective and set of priorities than those who haven’t had that experience.  I think that pointing out that as a class Catholic priests have chosen to set themselves aside from that particular understanding of children and responsibilities to protect them in favour of other priorities is a valid criticism.

  • Mackrimin

    How many of those dress wearing guys are parents themselves?

    Quite a few, if history is any guide.

    But what does it matter? If you are a parent, you should be able to better able to symphathise with other parents, and in this particular context their distress upon learning their child has been molested. But the distress caused to parents is not why child molesting is generally frowned upon. And every one of us has been a child at some point, so all of us should be able to symphathise with them, regardless of our own reproductive status.

  • http://vicwelle.wordpress.com victoria

    There are so very many ways to critique the Catholic hierarchy without resorting to petty, gendered and (arguably) transphobic insults like “dress wearing guys.”  There is nothing wrong with a guy wearing a dress or any other kind of less “manly” attire.  Try to be a little more creative with the insults, or at least come up with something less shallow than making fun of how someone dresses as a way to show how much you abhor their actions.

  • Lori

     There is nothing wrong with a guy wearing a dress or any other kind of less “manly” attire.   

    There is when that guy is helping lead the charge in demonizing other men who do the same, only without the blessing of the Church. 

  • Anonymous

    Okay, perhaps I should have put that particular bit in quotation marks. (Personally, I have nothing against cross-dressing, transvestites, etc.) My point is that none of the current Catholic Church hierarchy is a parent and, thus, has no basis on which to sympathize/empathize with the parents of the(ir) victims or the victims themselves.

  • Mackrimin

    I don’t understand why the dress wearing guys in Rome can’t figure that out.

    Because that would require admitting that secular authorities are, and _should be_, superior to the Church? Which might be quite difficult when you’re sitting on a throne in a millenia-old palace, wearing a kingly dress, surrounded by gold and priceless works of art and people kneel before you and kiss your fingers.

  • P J Evans

    Those dress-wearing guys are still thinking in medieval terms. It worked a lot better for them back then.

  • Don Gisselbeck

    It looks like defenders of Sandusky (and Herman Cain for that matter) believe in an expanded version of the droit du siegneur; powerful men should get to fuck anyone they want.

  • http://brandiweed.livejournal.com/ Brandi

    I think Ted Rall called it “droit du CEO”. I’m no Rall fan, but that was pretty good.

  • Guest-again

    First of all, Southern Baptist Archbishop Al Mohler deserves sincere admiration for making such a change, after it became all but unavoidable to realize that such a change was necessary. His publicizing this change is also worthy of admiration, and does credit to him in a way that is independent of his other actions or beliefs.

    But a very cynical part of me wonders whether any other considerations apart from basic human decency, which he obviously possesses in this case, come into play? Maybe tweaking the whore of Babylon’s horribly stained cassocks?

    Since there appears to be a general consensus here that the Catholic Church should have its tender sensibilities spared in such discussions, I will only leave this link to show the difference between someone in charge of an institution which continues to abuse children, and his Southern Baptist counterpart –

    ‘A Jackson County grand jury has indicted Bishop Robert Finn and the
    Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on misdemeanor charges of
    failure to report child abuse.The charges, announced at a news
    conference today, make Finn — leader of the 134,000-member diocese —
    the highest-ranking Catholic official in the nation to face criminal
    prosecution in a child sexual abuse case.
    The charges stemmed
    from the long-simmering controversy surrounding the Rev. Shawn Ratigan,
    who is facing child pornography charges in Clay County and federal
    court.
    ———————————
    Finn and the diocese had reasonable cause to believe that Ratigan may
    have abused a child but did not report it to authorities between Dec.
    16, 2010, and May 11, 2011, the indictment alleged. Evidence of that
    concern, the indictment said, was previous suspicions about Ratigan’s
    behavior around children and the discovery in December 2010 of hundreds
    of photos of children on Ratigan’s laptop.’
    ——————————-
    In May 2010, the principal of a Catholic school complained to the
    diocese about what she described as Ratigan’s inappropriate actions
    around children. Other than counseling Ratigan to moderate his conduct,
    however, his church supervisors took little substantial action.’ Read more: http://www.kansascity.com/2011/10/14/3207527/bishop-finn-diocese-indicted.html#ixzz1dNJM3Rjl

    What makes this case of the bishop being charged so interesting is this – ‘Stoking much of the anger is the fact that only three years ago, Bishop
    Finn settled lawsuits with 47 plaintiffs in sexual abuse cases for $10
    million and agreed to a long list of preventive measures, among them to
    report anyone suspected of being a pedophile immediately to law
    enforcement authorities.

    Bishop Finn, who was appointed in 2005, alienated many of his priests
    and parishioners, and won praise from others, when he remade the
    diocese to conform with his traditionalist theological views. He is one
    of few bishops affiliated with the conservative movement Opus Dei.’

    (Father Finn was named by John Paul II a Chaplain to His Holiness in August 2003 – the church needs fewer of such people, especially of the Opus Dei variety. Sadly, John Paul II appointed many such people in many positions throughout the church.)

  • Münchner Kindl

    First of all, Southern Baptist Archbishop Al Mohler deserves sincere admiration for making such a change, after it became all but unavoidable to realize that such a change was necessary. His publicizing this change is also worthy of admiration, and does credit to him in a way that is independent of his other actions or beliefs.

    I agree. However, to me the real test is: will the church of which he’s in charge (Southern Baptists?) really follow that? The Catholic Church has announced a change in how to deal with abuse several times in the past decades, but in a pinch and in reality, the old hierachy structures were still stronger than the new SOP rules.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-Oppen/594893122 Eric Oppen

    This incident, and the rioting, show yet again why adding intermural sports to colleges and universities was a bad, bad, bad idea.  As Damon Runyon said: “Seduced by all that shiny football money, Alma Mammy has become a bit of a tramp.” 

    One ongoing problem is the exploitation of gullible kids from the ghetto, who’re recruited as mercenaries-in-all-but-name, allowed to pretend to be college students while carefully kept from actually studying anything worthwhile (that is, if they’re even able to function on a college level) and, once their eligibility is over with, dumped back into the same holes they came from with nothing to show for it, while the universities and colleges grow rich on their sweat, blood and broken bones.  I’m surprised that the progressive movements aren’t all over this.

  • Lori

     One ongoing problem is the exploitation of gullible kids from the ghetto, who’re recruited as mercenaries-in-all-but-name, allowed to pretend to be college students while carefully kept from actually studying anything worthwhile (that is, if they’re even able to function on a college level) and, once their eligibility is over with, dumped back into the same holes they came from with nothing to show for it, while the universities and colleges grow rich on their sweat, blood and broken bones.  I’m surprised that the progressive movements aren’t all over this.  

    There have long been people writing about this issue and trying to get people to talk about it, but there are a lot of entrenched interests and huge money involved so it’s hard going. The most recent instances of programs run amuck (and the NCAA doing such an embarrassing job handling it that it seems to be deliberately arguing for it’s own obsolescence) have stirred the debate again.  

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/10/the-shame-of-college-sports/8643/http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7177921/the-beginning-end-ncaa

  • Anonymous

    I can’t watch college football because of shit like this.  Charlie Pierce has a great piece at Grantland about the NCAA
    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7177921/the-beginning-end-ncaa

  • http://twitter.com/Chaltab Andy English

    Holy fuck. “Gullible kids from the ghetto”?

    “even able to function on the college level”?

    Could you tone down the racism and classism buddy? It kind of makes any ‘progressive’ leanings of your post kind of suspect.

  • Lori

     Holy fuck. “Gullible kids from the ghetto”?

    “even able to function on the college level”?

    Could you tone down the racism and classism buddy? It kind of makes any ‘progressive’ leanings of your post kind of suspect.  

     
    I didn’t address the language when I first responded to the post because I wanted to stick with the man point, which is that college sports are exploitative and yes, people know it. The phrasing was poor though and it ignores the kids from non-urban areas who are also exploited by the system. 

    Sadly, there’s nothing actually untrue about the phrase “not even about to function on the college level”. It’s hardly a secret that many of the players on high profile teams at sports-dominated schools in fact can’t do college-level classwork. They would not have been admitted to the university if they weren’t sports recruits, could not stay in school if the team did not provide a level of tutoring assistance that it would be impossible for a normal student to get and often leave school without a degree when their eligibility runs out. Even those who do graduate often have received very little functional education and enter the workforce hardly more prepared than people who did not go to college. The perception that all of those athletes are African Americans who grew up in poor inner-city neighborhoods is inaccurate, but the rest is true. 

    Not all schools and programs are the same. Some do have high academic standards and work to keep the “student” part of student-athlete first. Some are focused on keeping their graduation rates up and giving their athletes a worthwhile education. Those schools are noteworthy for being exceptional.  

     

  • Anonymous

    To my mind the worst thing about the whole system is that it’s those kids who bear the bulk of the punishment when the rich old guys who run the show screw up and the school loses it’s NCAA accreditation or whatever.  They are the ones whose (future) careers are eaten by the NCAA sanctions, not the coaches and athletic directors.

    It would be like if every time a researcher at a med school fudged the numbers on a clinical trial they decided to not let any student at the school take the MCATs.

  • Daughter

    Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe writes an annual column on “The NCAA walk of shame” (IIRC) that ranks schools by the graduation rates of their athletes.

  • Mike Taylor

    And yet I am not so sure.  Yes of course an abused child has the right to safety from the abuser, and end to the abuse.  But it’s also true that an innocent schoolteacher or pastor or coach deserves not to have their life irretrievably destroyed by a baseless accusation that goes straight to the police.  Once done, it can’t be undone; I understand why many organisations believe some caution is warranted.

  • Münchner Kindl

    And yet I am not so sure. Yes of course an abused child has the right to safety from the abuser, and end to the abuse. But it’s also true that an innocent schoolteacher or pastor or coach deserves not to have their life irretrievably destroyed by a baseless accusation that goes straight to the police. Once done, it can’t be undone; I understand why many organisations believe some caution is warranted.

    A similar argument is often made about rape allegations from women against men, as that, too, is usually a one-on-one situation without witnesses or corrobating evidence. But the solution is not to stop investigating, but to get better investigators that can handle the case delicately and privately but still thoroughly. It’s not the investigation after all, but when rumors get out, the media starts a witchhunt and everybody does pre-judging “the adult is innocent/ guilty”. That needs to be avoided.In addition, children are not only more vulnerable for the emotional effects of abuse, you can easier protect them. Even if the issue being investigated can never be cleared fully and the truth can’t be found, you can make simple rules that protect both the children and the teacher while still letting good work be done. Rules like “Don’t let that teacher alone with children without another adult present at all times.” Rules like “Let that coach teach throwing, but not tackling (no touching).” And so on.

  • Anonymous

    The kids comes first. Always. Our obligation to them, and the severity of the alleged situation makes not reporting because of doubt an obscenity. ‘Doubt’ often comes because ‘someone like him couldn’t do something like that’. It almost always sides with power, and you can’t do that when a kid is a risk. Better the risk of adults wrongly accused then the risk of children left to suffer. That is the responsibility of being an adult in this culture: Taking on risk to protect children from it.

  • Anonymous

    Okay, okay – I realize this is an emotional issue, and you’re right, it’s better to risk adults than to risk children, but there’s a HUGE confirmation bias at play once the accusation has been made.  Witness this thing in North Dakota where the state has been removing Native American kids from their homes at an alarming rate because of “drug abuse.”  One woman had her children removed for over a year because she was going to be arrested for simple possession (she never was.)

    I’m not saying that you shouldn’t report abuse, or suspected abuse but this sentence makes me uncomfortable:

    ‘Doubt’ often comes because ‘someone like him couldn’t do something like
    that’. It almost always sides with power,

    It isn’t like things can’t get way out of control. In this particular case the lack of action is just really exceptionally egregious, and I’m not sure there are any sympathetic actors.  But things aren’t always so clear cut.  There’s not always an eye witness.

    It’s possible to take this too far, and get to the point where everybody (usually every man) who wants to work with children is automatically tarred as suspect.  At my sons daycare there was a former football player who ran one of the 9-12 month rooms.  Many parents pulled their kids out of the school or requested another room rather than let their kids go to that class – even though he was hands down the best teacher/care-give in the building.

    Penn State is a great example of why hard cases make bad laws.  The laws in place were sufficient to remedy the situation, they just weren’t followed.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Okay, okay – I realize this is an emotional issue, and you’re right,
    it’s better to risk adults than to risk children, but there’s a HUGE
    confirmation bias at play once the accusation has been made.  Witness
    this thing in North Dakota where the state has been removing Native
    American kids from their homes at an alarming rate because of
    “drug abuse.”  One woman had her children removed for over a year
    because she was going to be arrested for simple possession (she never
    was.)

    I’m not saying that you shouldn’t report abuse, or suspected abuse but this sentence makes me uncomfortable:

    ‘Doubt’ often comes because ‘someone like him couldn’t do something like that’. It almost always sides with power,

    It isn’t like things can’t get way out of control.
    In this particular case the lack of action is just really exceptionally
    egregious, and I’m not sure there are any sympathetic actors.  But
    things aren’t always so clear cut.  There’s not always an eye witness.

    Taking away kids of Native Americans in a systematic racket on trumped-up accusations of drug abuse is NOT comparable. Both, the kids and the parents, are the victims against the power of the system, and mandatory reporting would mean that people in the CPS system could report to somebody outside the system about how CPS is abusing the idea (though if the whole state receives federal money for placing kids in foster care, it’s hard to go high enough to find somebody uninvolved!)

    It’s
    possible to take this too far, and get to the point where everybody
    (usually every man) who wants to work with children is automatically
    tarred as suspect.  At my sons daycare there was a former football
    player who ran one of the 9-12 month rooms.  Many parents pulled their
    kids out of the school or requested another room rather than let their
    kids go to that class – even though he was hands down the best
    teacher/care-give in the building.

    This is already the case, and has nothing to do with mandatory reporting laws or not. I think it’s more the macho-culture divide in the US main culture, where anything unusual in a boy/ man is seen as sissy or gay (being interested in art/ cooking/ needlework? Gay. Doesn’t like American football, but soccer or ballett? Gay), combined with the fundies insistance that Gay= child molester.

    A set of rules that make molestation difficult by not providing opportunities, as described by one poster above (adults never alone with children, glass doors, etc.) protects both the children from abuse and adults from unfounded accusations. The only problem might be that if the children realize that all those measures are protection against sexual abuse, they become fixated on sexual things, but you don’t need to tell them why the doors have glass.

    Penn State is a great example of why hard cases make bad laws.  The laws in place were sufficient to remedy the situation, they just weren’t followed.

    Was the law that everybody involved, that is, the GA who witnessed the rape and the Coach Joe Pa he told about it were mandatory reporters and thus they both broke a law by not calling police? My impression was that it was a rule at the university to first tell the superior, who could decide to call the police – which in this case they decided against – and that’s Al Mohlers kind of whole point: no special rules for Churches or Universities or similar, always call the police first and then your superior, because everything else doesn’t work.

  • Lori

     Doesn’t like American football, but soccer or ballett? Gay 

     

    It’s true that liking dance of any sort is still looked on with suspicion, but in general playing soccer is not. I know plenty of boys who play soccer and have no issue about it. Several of them play both soccer and football or some other sport(s). That’s not just a blue state thing either. AYSO is very popular here. I’m sure there are parts of Texas where expressing an interest in soccer to the exclusion of football is a problem, but there are parts of Texas where expression an interest in anything to the exclusion of football is going to get you the side-eye. 

    Culture isn’t static and this is one of the things that’s changed significantly in the last couple decades. 

  • Anonymous

    But how do you know if an accusation is baseless or not, without an investigation? The cops have people with experience and training investigating reports of child abuse; I guarantee you, the average principal or bishop is far less qualified to decide whether abuse actually happened, and substantially more likely to be tempted to sweep such accusations under the rug to protect their institution’s good name.

  • cjmr

    There is a big difference between:

    Jimmy said, ‘John said, “Mary said her teacher tried to have sex with her”‘–which should be investigated by asking Mary directly before reporting it to CPS, the teacher’s principal, and probably also the police; and

    walking in on an attempted rape of Mary by the teacher–which should prompt the witness to immediately remove Mary to a safe place if at all possible and immediately place a call to the police.

    A direct witness to sexual abuse of a minor should ALWAYS consider themselves a mandatory reporter.

  • http://twitter.com/Chaltab Andy English

    I’d extend that to nonsexual abuse too.

  • Anonymous

    That speaks to a completely different problem in our society, that we treat the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” as a joke.

  • Ursula L

    And yet I am not so sure.  Yes of course an abused child has the right to safety from the abuser, and end to the abuse.  But it’s also true that an innocent schoolteacher or pastor or coach deserves not to have their life irretrievably destroyed by a baseless accusation that goes straight to the police.  Once done, it can’t be undone; I understand why many organisations believe some caution is warranted.

    The thing to remember is that it isn’t you’re job to sort out fact from rumor.  It’s the job of the police.

    If you have suspicions but not facts about abuse, you can report it in a way that it is clear that what you’re reporting is second-hand, or that you’re uncertain.  Then let the police sort it out. You can say “Student B told me that student A told her that Teacher C did X.”  The police can then investigate, check to see if others have reported similar concerns, and otherwise sort things out.  

    If you decide not to report a suspected crime, you’re appointing yourself to the combined role of police, detective, judge and jury.  You’re deciding to treat a suspect as innocent, rather than as a suspect to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  That’s an incredible amount of hubris.  

    The police investigate a lot of sexual crimes, and too many of them don’t get prosecuted or convicted.  It’s a serious problem, that an accusation of sexual crime is automatically treated as less credible than, say, an accusation of theft.  If you’d heard that an adult was stealing a child’s lunch money, you wouldn’t hesitate to report it.  Because people don’t doubt the victims of non-sexual crimes in the way that they automatically doubt the victims of sexual crimes.  

    It is certainly better to report suspicions to the police accurately, and let them investigate with the benefit of their training and access to the courts for things like search warrants, than to try to investigate yourself.  The solution to you’re hypothetical dilemma is not silence, but rather more details in the report to the police.  

  • ako

    Yeah, if given the choice between “I, an untrained amateur, will conduct an investigation and decide if this meets my personal standard of credible (which may or may not be tainted by inaccurate ideas about how ‘real’ abuse happens and how ‘real’ abusers and victims behave)” and “I will entrust the problem of investigating to professionals who have had actual training on how to do this”, the second choice is nearly always better.  That’s the reason behind stuff like mandatory reporting laws – a well-meaning amateur is much less likely to do a good job of investigating.

  • Dan Audy

    The thing to remember is that it isn’t you’re job to sort out fact from rumor.  It’s the job of the police.

    If
    you have suspicions but not facts about abuse, you can report it in a
    way that it is clear that what you’re reporting is second-hand, or that
    you’re uncertain.  Then let the police sort it out. You can say “Student
    B told me that student A told her that Teacher C did X.”  The police
    can then investigate, check to see if others have reported similar
    concerns, and otherwise sort things out.  

    If you decide not to
    report a suspected crime, you’re appointing yourself to the combined
    role of police, detective, judge and jury.  You’re deciding to treat a
    suspect as innocent, rather than as a suspect to be considered innocent
    until proven guilty in a court of law.  That’s an incredible amount of
    hubris.  

    The police investigate a lot of sexual crimes, and too
    many of them don’t get prosecuted or convicted.  It’s a serious problem,
    that an accusation of sexual crime is automatically treated as less
    credible than, say, an accusation of theft.  If you’d heard that an
    adult was stealing a child’s lunch money, you wouldn’t hesitate to
    report it.  Because people don’t doubt the victims of non-sexual crimes
    in the way that they automatically doubt the victims of sexual crimes.  

    It
    is certainly better to report suspicions to the police accurately, and
    let them investigate with the benefit of their training and access to
    the courts for things like search warrants, than to try to investigate
    yourself.  The solution to you’re hypothetical dilemma is not silence,
    but rather more details in the report to the police.

    I think you are crediting the police with WAY too much good faith, capability, honesty, and interest in the public good.  They are not interested in investigating a situation to see if there is truly something to be concerned about but rather identifying a ‘culprit’ and securing a conviction as quickly and easily as possible.  There are a lot of reasons why the police, and sex crimes investigators in particular, do this but whether good or bad justification can be provided it results in a witch hunt mentality that is nearly impossible to defend against.  At best the accussed can spend tens of thousands of dollars to get a not-guilty verdict while having their reputation permanently destroyed, often losing their family and job, no longer passing background checks, and permanently this cloud of suspicion follow them with police continuing to try and ‘catch them again’.  The worst part is that getting a not-guilty verdict in a case of innocence actually convinces the police that they need to be more manipulative in creating guilt in the future so that ‘those dirty molestors’ do get off again.

    If the police and society were willing to treat sex crimes against children the same way they treated any other crime (proper investigation, innocent until proven guilty, etc) then I think reporting them to the legal authorities would be a responsible act.  However, the police act as amoral zealots and I would have to be ABSOLUTELY certain something was happening before I would report to them lest I destroy the life of the adult and cause serious harm to the child that the investigation would cause.

  • ako

    However, the police act as amoral zealots and I would have to be
    ABSOLUTELY certain something was happening before I would report to them
    lest I destroy the life of the adult and cause serious harm to the
    child that the investigation would cause.

    How does the risk of serious harm to the child (and other children) that ongoing abuse would cause factor into this equation?  Because what you’re describing seems like a recipe for letting a lot of abusers get away with it (as even a fairly enthusiastic amateur-detective investigation would have trouble accumulating substantial evidence).  And abusers who get away with it and face no negative consequences tend to keep abusing.

  • Mike Taylor

    I would be happier with that if I were more confident that an accusation reported to the police, which then turns out to baseless, has no long-term consequences for the accused person.  But I am not confident of that at all.

    To be clear: I am certainly not advocating “hushing up”; just a pre-investigation to determine whether there is any case at all to investigate, before delivering someone’s life up on a plate.  It’s not hard to find stories of false accusations that have had life-shattering — in some cases, literally life-ending — consequences.  All I am saying is that when person A accuses person B of something, there are two people in the equation, and both have rights.

  • Lori

     t’s not hard to find stories of false accusations that have had life-shattering — in some cases, literally life-ending — consequences. 

    This is true, but it’s a lot easier to find stories of abuse that went unreported and unpunished that had life-shattering — in some cases, literally life-ending — consequences. Yes there are two people involved in an accusation and yes they both have rights. However, as others have said, when it comes down to it you have to err on the side of the child. 

    I think very few people acknowledge to themselves that they’re part of a child abuse cover-up. Instead they tell themselves that they just don’t know what happened and they don’t want to be wrong or unfair and s/he has always seemed like such a good person and blah, blah, blah. The problem with a “pre-investigation” is that the person(s) conducting it have no investigative skills and as such will almost certainly end up making a judgement depending on their gut feeling, even if they believe themselves to be objective. Unless there is strong reason to doubt the report it needs to be handled by people who have some skills and authority. If you don’t want to turn it directly over to the police you can call Child Protective Services, but keeping decision-making in-house is a recipe for disaster. 

    ETA: When people who know the accused handle any aspect of the investigation you tend to get the kind of attitude that Sally Jenkins articulates in her appalling column defending Paterno:

    “when he looked at Jerry Sandusky, he didn’t see a dirty old man in a raincoat. He saw a friend, a close colleague, and a churchy do-gooder.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/blame-for-the-penn-state-scandal-does-not-lie-with-joe-paterno/2011/11/08/gIQADqMF3M_story.html

    This is ridiculous. Jenkins should be ashamed of writing it and her editor should be ashamed of publishing it, but it’s not an uncommon attitude. It’s tough to overcome the assumption that someone you know can’t possibly have done such a horrible thing.

  • ako

    I think very few people acknowledge to themselves that they’re part
    of a child abuse cover-up. Instead they tell themselves that they just
    don’t know what happened and they don’t want to be wrong or unfair and
    s/he has always seemed like such a good person and blah, blah, blah.

    This.  Someone who has almost no opportunity to look at the physical evidence is pretty much stuck going by their sense of what’s credible.  And people, in general, are really prone to going “That guy doesn’t seem like the sort of creepy pervert who would do such a thing!  Maybe the kid’s lying or confused?” and engaging in cover-up behavior without ever thinking they’re covering anything up.  Instead, they’re thinking they’re just protecting an innocent person from an accusation they don’t consider credible enough to merit police investigation.

  • P J Evans

    If people stopped and thought about it, a child-molester would have to be someone who appears respectable and honest, because they have to get the kids to cooperate and the parents to not believe the kids.

  • Anonymous

    I find it ironic, to say the least, that this Bishop’s sudden realisation that child abuse should be reported to law enforcement came after he heard of a succession of boys being raped by a sports coach, not after (for example) the rape of a fifteen-year-old girl and subsequent cover-up by her pastor. (The rapist, in this instance, remained a member of the congregation until his arrest, many years later – the pastor who protected the rapist is now employed at another church.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    I’m sadly not surprised by this at all. All my life I’ve been fed the message that sports are more important than anything else, and that any unethical or even criminal behavior will be hushed up if it might interfere with winning The Big Game.

    At Ohio State University, there have often been cases of great outrage when Coach Jim Tressel actually had the nerve to suspend or throw players off the football team for such minor things as academic cheating or being charged with rape. “How dare he?” the people say. “Doesn’t he know where his priorities are?”

    After any Big Game, the campus are becomes the stage for what at any other time would be called riots and wanton lawlessness. There’s rarely anything done, because “the kids are just letting out their energy.” It’s just good healthy fun.

  • Lori

     At Ohio State University, there have often been cases of great outrage when Coach Jim Tressel actually had the nerve to suspend or throw players off the football team for such minor things as academic cheating or being charged with rape. “How dare he?” the people say. “Doesn’t he know where his priorities are?”  

    I think it’s pretty clear now exactly what Tressel’s priorities were. 

  • http://from1angle.wordpress.com emilyperson

    I think I remember hearing something about the football coach/gym teacher at my high school getting fired after it came out that he’d been sexually harassing students. The thing is, this was after an eight-year losing streak; I think the district had been looking for an excuse to get rid of him for a while.

  • Guest-again

    ‘But it’s also true that an innocent schoolteacher or pastor or coach
    deserves not to have their life irretrievably destroyed by a baseless
    accusation that goes straight to the police.’
    In neither the case of Sandusky raping a 10 year old in the shower, or Rattigan with his pictures and the circumstances under which they were taken, was there any doubt of an innocent individual being accused (OK, in the case of the priest, there was the police offical who was also a diocesan official saying that he was unconcerned, for whatever worth finds in that worthless statement). And yet, in both cases, the institutions to which they belonged felt that involving the police was not necessary in connection with a clearly criminal act (or in both cases, acts – which continued, at a minimum, years and months, respectively, after a credible report which should have stopped the pedophile from being able to continue their actions).

    ‘I find it ironic, to say the least, that this Bishop’s sudden
    realisation that child abuse should be reported to law enforcement came
    after he heard of a succession of boys being raped by a sports coach….’

    Defending Mohler is an unpleasant task – but what he did is to change a now clear loophole that allowed child rapists to enjoy the protection of their institution by making it sufficient to simply report abuse to a supervisor – who has an institutional intest in keeping such abuse hidden. As I noted in contrast to the Catholic Church (I’ve  noticed that the Church’s defenders seem remarkably quiet on this), Mohler is attempting to remedy a disgusting situation. 

    By requiring such allegations to be reported to law enforcement, who in contrast have an institutional interest in pursuing criminals, not hiding them, Mohler has done a good thing. He deserves credit, as Fred has noted in this specific case.

    However, this does not detract a whit from any other criticism he deserves, of which there is an abundance.

  • cjmr

    Guest-again said:  ” As I noted in contrast to the Catholic Church (I’ve  noticed that the
    Church’s defenders seem remarkably quiet on this), Mohler is attempting
    to remedy a disgusting situation.” 

    I teach Religious Ed in my diocese.  I am a mandatory reporter. I was required to attend a three-hour training program on being a mandatory reporter, and will need to be re-certified in that every 5 years.  I am required to have a police background check every year.  We are required to have hall monitors in the Religious Ed corridor to make sure that no child ever goes into the bathroom if there is already an adult or teen in the bathroom.  Every hall monitor is also required to have a background check every year.  Even a parent who wishes to wait in the lounge/common area during their child’s Religious Ed class is required to have a background check.  All doors in the Religious Ed corridor are required to be 40% glass, and no posters can be hung blocking the glass. If there is only one adult and one child in a room, the door must be open or a second adult must go into the room. We take it damn seriously now.

  • Anonymous

    This isn’t a sports issue only.  This is almost identical to what happened when they tried to extradite Roman Polanski.  I’d imagine many of the Hollywood celebrities who defended Polanski privately think of the protesters as heartless moron sports fans, and many of the Penn State fans thought Polanski was being defended by elitist limousine liberals.  And no doubt many of the church leaders felt that men of God were advancing the Kingdom and could not afford to be set back over a couple of allegations.  It’s a real test of character when you have to judge someone who has done both good and bad, and it’s hard to hold to ideas of justice when they threaten something you value.  The truth, though, is that we have to stand up for the innocent against the powerful, because once we make exceptions, we send the message that we don’t care.  Predators hear that message loud and clear.

  • Swansont

    No, it’s not.  Paterno is accused of neither molestation nor coverup.  Likening him to Polanski (or Michael Jackson, as I have seen elsewhere) is misguided.

  • Anonymous

    True, the specific crimes aren’t the same, but I was more talking about the reaction of the fans.  In both cases, they seem to be ignoring the damage done because it’s someone who’s done things they like.  Polanski’s actions were much worse than Paterno’s, but both have fans trying to shield them from the legitimate consequences of their actions.

  • Lori

     Paterno is accused of neither molestation nor coverup.  Likening him to Polanski (or Michael Jackson, as I have seen elsewhere) is misguided. 

    Paterno hasn’t been legally charged with anything and he almost certainly never will be. However, he is being accused of the cover-up and with good reason. He was clearly part of the cover-up in 2002 when McQuery gave him an eyewitness account of seeing Sandusky rape a child on school grounds and Paterno did nothing but water the story down and pass it up the line. 

    That wasn’t the beginning of the story though. Paterno has been in this thing since at least 1998 and the investigation that lead to Sandusky’s highly unusual (and in retrospect telling) early retirement in 1999. There is no way that Paterno didn’t know what was going on. It is now widely, and credibly, believed that Sandusky retired because his little secret was no longer secret enough and he knew he was never going to be a head coach and PSU or anywhere else. And yet no one, including the supposedly integrity-filled Paterno took any steps to actually stop his crimes. They just pushed him out the door with a very nice retirement package and continued access to the prestige and facilities of PSU. 

    Paterno couldn’t pick up the phone and call the cops in 2002, or push McQ to do it. If he had it would have come out that he and school knew for at least 4 years that their former employee was a child predator and did nothing to stop it. 

  • P J Evans

     Lori, you might wast to visit emptywheel. There are two posts today looking at the grand jury’s presentment and what has been published about the incidents.

  • Aimaiami

    That’s factually wrong. Paterno is, indeed, accused of “coverup.” Because he did coverup. His responsibility may not be legal but the guy was a demi god in his little town. He had the power to loose and to bind. Its pretty clear that they knew what Sandusky was up to and that’s why Sandusky was forced out of his official position. But they let him keep his key and bring kids into the showers. Presumably because that was the attraction of his “SEcond Mile” program–that it was quasi affiliated with Paterno and the Football team itself.  So Paterno et al let Sandusky continue to act as a semi representitive, an “emeritus” figure, and use public facilities, while they knew (or suspected) that he was engaged in child molestation.

    Since Paterno and his female coach were routinely forcing lesbians and suspected lesbians off that team for years I just don’t get the notion that Paterno’s responsibilities ended with his strict legal connection of supervisor to Sandusky.  Paterno didn’t draw the line between his football coach authority and tons of local social activities and informal relationships–why all of a sudden do his fans think that he had a “superior” who had to deal with things and that his hands were tied?  Does anyone think that someone of Paterno’s stature and connections didn’t have the moral responsibility to call up the trustees of Second Mile and the feeder schools/organizations and warn them about Sandusky?

    aimai

  • ako

    A lot of people are really uncomfortable with the idea that the child molesting predator of the horrifying news stories can be the same as the friendly community member they like and trust.  This is understandable, as “I honestly can’t tell if that guy who’s trusted with my kid is a child molester or not” is a really scary thought.  (Even with the fact that the vast majority of people work with youth aren’t child molesters, the lack of certainty is hard to deal with.)  Unfortunately, a lot of people deal with this discomfort by going “No, this can’t be true!  Only people who look a certain way or act obviously creepy abuse children like that!” and denying or minimizing the problem.  Combine that with the selfish desire for football victories/brilliant films/whatever, and the results are really ugly.

  • Guest-again

    ‘Why are you guys calling Al Mohler a “bishop”?’
    Only because our host did – and this based on our host’s sense of fitness (or irony, or sarcasm, or humor, or … whatever it is he finds proper, as do I). For myself, personally, I do not consider Mohler an archbishop in any sense but the poetic . and the critical. I’m not, in the end, protestant. American, definitely, but not protestant, except to the extent that any American is someone who refuses to allow religion to override the Constitution (oops – calling archbishop Mohler on the courtesy phone – though our host is able to handle the call in his place, with the appropriate ridicule).

    And in all fairness, Mohler is right – the change he has instituted is completely correct, and is possible for any decent person to support. Child abuse should be immediately reported to those entrusted to stop it – and not to merely to those people who have an apparent interest in covering it up.

    Again, this is extremely limited support for Mohler – but his public proclamation in this matter is the only decent one, and for that he deserves commendation. In contrast, see the trial of Bishop Finn (who proves that such mandatory reportin laws are necessary, even after his diocese was forced to pay out 10 miliion dollars and agree to do the decent thing in the future),  a Chaplain to His Holiness, appointed in 2003. Baptists, for all their other faults, do not have such exalted titles, including ‘archbishop.’ Well, OK, Southern Baptists, who don’t mind using president – much like the Mormons – it really is a problem to universally declare what Baptists believe, unlike other churches, like the Orthodox – of which there is only a handful, more or less, or the Lutherans, of which there is probably less than 100 or so, or …   

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/5OPDTGMVEFDYDKHEXSNNWOFNWY Jim

    Mike Taylor, we aren’t talking about someone seeing a child with suspicious bruises, or a child who flinches at the talk of grown men, we’re talking about someone who bare-eyeballed a grown man sodomizing a child in a gym shower. There is no “fine line” here.

  • Swansont

    Are we?  I don’t see the graduate assistant (aka the eyewitness) mentioned here.

  • Mike Taylor

    Jim, I think it’s pretty obvious that I was not talking about the latter case.  Yes, of course such incidents should go to the police.  My problem is with Fred’s blanket statement “Report any suspicion of the abuse of a child to law enforcement authorities” (emphasis added).  A deliberately blind-to-the-circumstances policy like that will lead to lives destroyed by baseless allegations.  There’s no maybe about it — it will.  So, no, there is no “fine line” in the specific case you mention; but that’s not always so.  What’s once been made public can never be unsaid; before doing that, we should demand more evidence than “any suspicion”.

  • Anonymous

    “but what he did is to change a now clear loophole that allowed child
    rapists to enjoy the protection of their institution by making it
    sufficient to simply report abuse to a supervisor – who has an
    institutional intest in keeping such abuse hidden.”

    I get that, Guest.

    My point was that it did not occur to the good Archbishop to close the loophole for another well-publicised case of a child rapist who was enjoying the protection of his institution.

    In 1997, a 15-year-old girl was raped several times by Ernest Willis – he and his victim were both members of Trinity Baptist Church. Willis and his victim were both made to apologize to the congregation by Pastor Chuck Phelps, who is now the pastor of Concord Baptist Church: Phelps then moved the girl out of state, had her stay with a Baptist couple she didn’t know until she gave birth, and then her baby was taken away from her and she was returned to her family and continued to attend Trinity Baptist Church until she left home – and so did Willis. Willis wasn’t convicted of rape until September 2011. Phelps is still pastor at Concord Baptist Church, and if there’s been any general Baptist condemnation of his behavior in letting a rapist go free for 14 years and treating the rapist’s victim as if she were responsible for his actions, I haven’t seen it.

    Certainly we have the Archbishop’s public admission that it didn’t occur to him that there was anything wrong with a Christian institution protecting rapists until it happened at Penn State.

  • Guest-again

    ‘We take it damn seriously now.’
    Yeah, well, one can only hope that after the laws were changed, and after Bishop Finn was charged for not following guidelines he agreed to after costing his parishioners (if that term is properly accurate in this context) 10 million dollars. And the fact that someone like police captain Capt. Richard Smith, who just happened to have a diocesan position on their review board  said a picture was no problem – though he has been furiously backpedalling, claiming something akin to deception,  showing that any protestations that the Catholic Church has improved needs to be based on actual actions, and not pious hope. (I will admit, for the sake of discussion, that the Catholic Church is a very large institution, and that individual parts do not represent the whole, either good or bad.)

    My faith that the Catholic Church has even become to approach the level of awareness (and disgust) of Mohler’s Christianity is basically zero, based on actual court documents.
    http://www.kansascity.com/2011/10/14/3207434/diocese-bishop-finn-acknowledges.html

    The Catholic Church in the U.S. (not to mention Ireland, which has spent well over 150 million euro to prove what the Catholic Church already knew there – money spent because the Catholic Church in Ireland couldn’t tell the truth contained in its own records) should face prosecution as a criminal organization – what survives may deserve recognition as a moral institution, but what exists today, in many places and facets, is corrupt and disgusting.

    I am not bothering to spare anyone’s tender sensibilities – these are documented facts. Catholics need to deal with them, and in a way that Bishop Finn, Opus Dei (who continues to maintain his innocence, it must be noted, though he committed his diocese to swift reporting of child abuse following admitted guilt in 47 cases, and then did not actually undertake what he said would occur in cases of abuse)  would likely not approve of – considering that his diocese didn’t bother to report abuse which was credibly reported a full year before the diocese felt the need to inform the police.

    Fred’s post about no true Scotsmen is applicable – and Bishop Finn, it appears, is a true Catholic. Other Catholics need to deal with this reality – one that Mohler, as a Southern Baptist and a decent man in this particular case (I removed ‘surprisingly’ – his decency should not actually be a surprise, even in light of his other beliefs), at least, has recognized, to his credit. And to Finn’s shame – a man that forced a law to be written under which he was charged, because the word of a Catholic bishop in regards to child abuse is worth nothing, as is currently being demonstrated in a court of law. There is more than one bad apple – see Ireland. Or more disgustingly, see Germany – where abuse cases have been considerably more successfully hushed up, at least until now. Probably because some Germans feel having a German pope is more important than removing a man whose office protected child abusers in the past.

    I don’t believe in witch hunts, and it is wrong to blame the Catholic Church uniquely. But what is found to be foul in the Catholic church needs to be corrected, not covered up – as occurred in Finn’s diocese of 134,000 good Catholics, including a police captain whose clear failure is on par with that of the bishop. 

    The Catholic Church needs to be forced to deal with this reality – trusting a member of the hierarchy is worthless, as Finn shows. Not to mention as demonstated by his Irish, Austrian, German, and fellow American brethren – remember Cardinal Law? –
    ‘He resigned as archbishop of Boston on December 13, 2002, in response to the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal after Church documents were revealed which suggested he had covered up sexual abuse committed by priests in his archdiocese.
    Pope John Paul II in 2004 appointed him Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome.’
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Francis_Law
    Along with this little tidbit –
    ‘In December 2002, Cardinal Law left Boston. It is often alleged that he left just hours before state troopers arrived with subpoenas
    seeking his grand jury testimony; however, he had previously given
    evidence before two grand juries and been fully investigated by the
    state attorney general and the 5 district attorneys in the counties in
    which the Archdiocese operates. When the state attorney general issued
    his report entitled Child Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston
    (July 23, 2003) he severely criticised Law but he did not allege that
    Law had tried to evade investigation and he did state that Law had not
    broken any laws. In May 2004, John Paul II appointed Law to a post in Rome, putting him in charge of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, with the title of Archpriest.’

    Do notice that there is not actual contradiction that state troopers were sent to compel his truthful testimony, after his proven lack of accuracy in previous cases (Law had an apparently unlimited ability to change his story as facts came to light, as documented by the Boston Globe).

    (Law was another Pope John Paul II appointee – and another reason why I feel the Catholic Church was not improved by his appointments.) 

  • Anonymous

    It occurs to me that McQueary’s behavior upon seeing a child being raped–he went away and called his father about what to do–is classic authoritarian thinking. You don’t help the victim; you go find an authority figure to tell you what is the right thing to do. It’s also classic CYA behavior.

    I understand he won’t be at the game on Saturday because of threats against him. None of my business, but I sort of wish I knew from which side they came. Is he being threatened because he’s seen as responsible for Paterno’s firing, or because he failed the child?

  • Anonymous

    You know at the beginning of this whole mess before it became clear that the “graduate assistant” was Mike McQueary, I had some sympathy for that person.

    Grad assistant sees immensely respected superior doing something horrible to a chlild.  Reports it to their boss.  Their boss reports it up the chain, and there’s a meeting with administration heavies where they get pressured to change their story, but they stick to it..

    That’s basically all that’s in the grand jury testimony, and it’s pretty plausible to construct a scenario consistent with those facts (especially if you know how Universities tend to treat their GAs.) where the GA did everything that could be expected and even went beyond the call of duty.  Maybe it’s 5’2″ 110lb equipment manager vs the Defensive Coordinator (whose a former linebacker.)  Maybe they see it at 12:00 at night and report it at 8:00 in the morning.  Maybe after they didn’t change their story in said meeting their funding dried up and it was implied that if they ever wanted to work again they’d keep their mouth shut.  Maybe THEY start to doubt what they’d seen – after all everybody else does.  Maybe they DO go to the university police and the police automatically write it off as sour grapes from a fired GA.  (After all, the university police are already implemented in the cover up.)

    But that’s not what happened.  No – the 28yo quarterback was more than match for the 65yo linebacker.  He wasn’t some expendable TA they were gonna shitcan as soon as he rocked the boat.  He DIDN’T lose his job – instead he got a tony gig as the Wide Receivers coach.  He hung out there for YEARS and kept his mouth shut.

    It’s like an episode of Law and Order.  Horrible Crime -> Plausible Sympathetic Explanation -> Nope, fooled you – person’s just a bastard.

    Now here’s where it get’s sticky – the moral of most Law & Order episodes is “just like the rest of them!”  It’s important to note that not everyone who fails to do the right thing is in fact actively doing the wrong thing, or that they didn’t do ANYTHING defensible.  Or that there wasn’t some situation where the actions they took WERE defensible.

  • P J Evans

     Probably because he’s seen as responsible for Paterno’s firing. There are a lot of people who think that their schools coaches (especially football and basketball) are next to God.
    Paterno, however, is probably the reason the two other school officials got fired by the school and charged by the grand jury: he went before the grand jury (possibly without a lawyer) and apparently testified about what he had been told and what he told the school officials, and that resulted in the grand jury charging the two guys with perjury.
    (Paterno also announced he was resigning even before the trustees decided to fire him.)

  • Killoren

    Only because our host did – and this based on our host’s sense of
    fitness (or irony, or sarcasm, or humor, or … whatever it is he finds
    proper, as do I). For myself, personally, I do not consider Mohler an
    archbishop in any sense but the poetic .

    That’s fair enough. I just think that it’s unnecessarily confusing and distracting for this issue. Al Mohler does not have any supervisory or administrative role over all Baptist congregations in the same sense than an Archbishop might. Calling him an Archbishop makes it seem as if he can be held personally or vicariously liable (in a moral if not a legal) for policing the actions of Baptists and Baptist congregations in general and that’s just completely inaccurate.

    He has control over the affairs that he manages at the school that he works for, and influence over those who choose to listen to him, but no more ability to enforce his rules on Baptists as a whole than any other pastor.

  • Guest-again

    ‘My point was that it did not occur to the good Archbishop to
    close the loophole for another well-publicised case of a child rapist
    who was enjoying the protection of his institution.’
    No it didn’t – and yet, he publicly changed his position. I refuse to condemn him for that. Unlike Bishop Finn (or the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland, Boston, Germany …), Mohler seems to have drawn a proper conclusion in attempting to keep children from being abused – in the future. His past (and legion – I am not attempting to defend Mohler) failings should not detract from this extremely clear position.

    He should certainly be held to the standard that he is now publicly proclaiming, and his present proclamations do not erase the past.

    It is simply he, as the head of an organization, seems to have (finally) drawn the correct conclusion – something that the Catholic Church, with a much longer and more horrible pattern of abuse (Ireland, Boston, Germany, Austria…) has yet to demonstrably do.

    As witness the Catholic Church’s response to this –
    ‘Monday 25 July 2011

    The
    Vatican labels reaction to an inquiry into child abuse in the Catholic
    church “excessive” after recalling the Pope’s ambassador to Ireland.
    ———————————-
    The move reflects the heightened tensions between the Vatican and Ireland just days after the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny,
    made an unprecedented speech condemning the Vatican, in which he said
    that allegations that some priests abused children had been mishandled.

    A
    report into child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See to
    frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as
    three years ago.

    Mr
    Kenny said: “The rape and torture of children was downplayed, or
    managed, to uphold instead the primacy of the institution – its power,
    standing and reputation.”
    ———————————–
    Last week, the Irish parliament passed a motion deploring the
    Vatican’s role in “undermining child protection frameworks” following
    publication of a damning report on the diocese of Cloyne in county Cork.

    The
    “Cloyne report” said that Irish clerics concealed from authorities the
    sexual abuse of children by priests as recently as 2009. It claimed the
    Vatican disparaged mandatory child protection guidelines, and referred
    to them as “study guidelines” in a letter to Irish bishops.’
    http://www.channel4.com/news/popes-irish-ambassador-withdrawn-over-child-abuse-response

    Mohler, to his credit, is not responding in this way. His (institution’s) past failures in this specific area are not erased by his publicly proclaimed position – hopefully, unlike the Catholic Church’s proven track record, his position is clear enough to prevent (a number greater than zero) future cases of abuse. Holding the Southern Baptists to this standard (hopefully without needing to pass new laws and then charge someone who flouts them like Bishop Finn) is fine – and undoubtedly necessary, as I am certain that cases of abuse occur within it.

    This is an attempt of a person in authority to tryg to improve a demonstrably bad situation by closing a demonstrably public loophole – for this, Mohler deserves credit. Even if not every single reason for this action is untainted by self-interest.

    I am not trying to be dismissive – and if (or when) evidence appears showing Mohler was personally engaged in covering up or dismissing allegations of abuse, he should be held to the standard he has declared, and reported to the police. Just like Bishop Finn, or what is likely to happen in Ireland, assuming the hierarchy can’t flee fast enough.

  • Aimaiami

    How does this square with the conservative/right wing/religious attempt to use “freedom of religion” as a cloak for homophobia?  I love the Mohler statement and specifically the part that talks about how the Church is not empowered to investigate itself criminally because that belongs, symbolically, to the realm of Rome and the State. But what, then, of the simultaneous insistence that the Church’s morality takes precedence over the laws of the state when it comes to other forms of child abuse such as telling a gay child that they are going to hell?  The recent watering down of the anti bullying statutes were specifically done so that other children *and adults* in institutions that are trying to control bullying will be free to continue harrassing and bullying gay youth “so long as they hold a sincere religious belief” that they are entitled to do so.

    I can’t applaud Mohler’s attempt to create a sex abuse free zone until he acknowledges that many religiously sanctioned behaviors, including beating children and gay reparative therapy, may be equally abusive and worthy of report to the secular authorities.

    aimai

  • zzxjoanw

    I don’t think parents are morally superior to non-parents but like any
    other major life activity it grants you a different perspective and set
    of priorities than those who haven’t had that experience.

    To an extent, yes. I don’t think it has anything to do with thinking abusing children is ok/not ok.

  • Dan Audy

    To an extent, yes. I don’t think it has anything to do with thinking abusing children is ok/not ok.

    I can only speak for myself but before I became a parent I saw the responsibility for protecting your child to be primarily the parents responsibility.  Having become a parent myself and now recognizing how much happens in my children’s lives that I don’t know or get told about I see a greater responsibility for any adult present to get involved rather than refering the decisions back to the parent.

    I can genuinely see how someone with the attitude I had pre-parenthood and a significant responsibility to an institution like the church making the choices that caused so much damage.  If all there was is inappropriate but non-criminal behaviour then I can see how counselling on avoiding such inappropriate behaviour and moving them elsewhere would seem like a responsible choice given that they didn’t actually believe anything wrong had happened, merely the appearence of wrongdoing.  In the cases where there was outright accusations or proof I can’t possibly justify their decisions as they are completely and utterly morally repugnant.

  • We Must Dissent

    Do not assume that your former ignorance is universal, please.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    JoePa

    Can we dispense with this pop-cultural trend of shortening peoples’ names? “Brangelina” was bad enough, thanks.

  • Anonymous

    Not that it makes it right or better, but if I remember right he’s been JoePa forever. Way longer than the traditional herald of celeb portmanteaus.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Makes me wonder how much of the resistance to Paterno’s dismissal for failure to act has to do with subliminal associations of ‘JoePa’ to a father figure.

  • Anonymous

    I completely agree with you there. It may have promoted a feeling of familiarity that only increased as time went by and he became more fatherly looking.

  • Lori

     Makes me wonder how much of the resistance to Paterno’s dismissal for failure to act has to do with subliminal associations of ‘JoePa’ to a father figure.  

    It’s not subliminal at all. People’s view of him as a (grand)father figure is explicitly stated and has been for a long time. As for the nickname, there’s a bit of a chicken and egg thing at work. He got it because people see him in a parental way, but having it also encourages people to see him in a parental way. 

  • Lori

     Can we dispense with this pop-cultural trend of shortening peoples’ names? “Brangelina” was bad enough, thanks.

     

    He’s been called that for years. It’s a nickname. If you don’t like it you should probably talk to him about it, or whoever called him that first. Not sure how you’ll track that person down, but it has nothing to do with name mash-ups like Brangelina.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Sorry, I don’t follow college sports worth a damn and so had no idea about how long the nickname had been around.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Easily explained how Penn State happened:  This is FOOTBALL, and FOOTBALL is the State Religion of American High Schools & Colleges.

    And (as they were snarking on morning drive-time radio today) “Having boys get raped is a small price to pay for a Legendary FOOTBALL Coach and having a Winning FOOTBALL Team!”

  • Lujack

    I understand that this is not a blog particularly known for watching football, which is fine, of course, but here’s where you have to understand-Joe Paterno was not looked at as the traditional “God-Like Coach Because He Wins”, he was looked at as “God-Like Coach Because He Is A Living Saint Who Wins”.

    People like me understood instinctively that JoePa would always do the right thing, that you could trust Penn State football, that they and all the coaches (Sandusky included) were DIFFERENT.  They had the high graduation rate, they did the charity work, Paterno paid for the library and Sandusky ran a charity and they took care of their starters and their 5th-stringers equally.  And it wasn’t like Notre Dame, which is very much love it or hate it-it was loved, universally.  JoePa was not Woody Hayes, perpetually on the edge and always involved in controversy-he was a HERO because he proved that college athletics could be a force for good in the world.

    This is why people can’t believe it-Paterno was a symbol-not of win-at-all costs, of the head coach from Varsity Blues, but every hero-coach from sports movies and books writ large, and you could see him every Saturday live and in color.  He didn’t just win, he did according that mythical RIGHT WAY.  He never tricked his players-he made them go to class and go to study hall, and when some of them got drunk at a party on Saturday night and broke a window they were up early on Sunday cleaning the stadium steps because he was there to build men.

    That’s what he was.  That’s what we believed.  That’s what we thought of him-and he’d always be that way, Penn State would always be that way.

    And then we find out that they, and him, failed us all in the worst way possible.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Oh, please.

    Didn’t you see where your favorite demigod was busy kicking QUILTBAG people off sports teams during his tenure? Hardly the actions of a saint, for all that he did a good job of showing off in public how much he ~cared~*.

    Your demigod had feet of clay. Deal with it.

    This kind of worship of the people who are associated with team sport is dangerous and should have been nipped in the bud well before now.

    * Jesus Christ had things to say about showoffs.

  • Anonymous

    Your demigod had feet of clay. Deal with it.

    Doesn’t everybody?  It’s okay to be disappointed in people who you expected better of.

  • Lori

     Didn’t you see where your favorite demigod was busy kicking QUILTBAG people off sports teams during his tenure? Hardly the actions of a saint, for all that he did a good job of showing off in public how much he ~cared~*.  

    This is true for you and me, but not everyone places a high value on QUILTBAG rights and Paterno’s actions on that issue did not get a fraction the press that his charitable work did. And that charitable work was substantial and of long-standing. His reputation for running a “clean” program was also not entirely fictional. 

    This kind of worship of the people who are associated with team sport is dangerous and should have been nipped in the bud well before now. 

    Yes, it should have. However, as Lujack pointed out, people’s respect and affection for Paterno were not based entirely on his association with PSU sports. Plenty of coaches win, some of them win a lot. Very few are held in the kind of esteem and affection that people had for Joe Paterno and his off-field work is what made the difference. 

    Your demigod had feet of clay. Deal with it.  

    Gee, don’t allow yourself to be over-whelmed with compassion. 

    Lujack didn’t get caught raping children or covering-up for someone who did. He’s not saying that Paterno didn’t do anything wrong. He’s not arguing against Paterno’s firing. All of that puts him miles ahead of quite a number of people who really ought to know better. 

    All he did was explain his feelings and why this is painful for him. I think most of us have been there and it sucks. Finding out that a person you greatly admired is not entirely who you thought they were is a tremendous disappointment. The fact that some people admired Paterno in the face of things that we disapprove of, like his homophobia, or for reasons that we don’t care about, like football, doesn’t change that. 

    This is a major hot button topic for a lot of us. I’ve gone off on a few rants about it in the last few days. I don’t have kids, but my years in social work put this very high on my list of shit with which I will not put up. It’s the job of adults to protect kids. Failing in that job, especially for such self-serving reasons, earns nothing but my contempt and disgust. That doesn’t mean that I think it’s fair to extend that contempt & disgust to anyone who ever admired Paterno. The ones who are defending him yes, but the rest of them no.

  • Lujack

    [QUOTE]Your demigod had feet of clay.  Deal with it.[/QUOTE]

    I do believe that’s what I’m trying to do.  The university was right for firing JoePa.  He didn’t belong in that position of power anymore.  And I had no idea about Paterno kicking QUILTBAG people off the team-that’s not something I had ever been aware of.  What I had been aware of was the high graduation rates and the clean program and the charity work.  What I had ALSO been aware of (and this was not something I brought up too clearly) was that Sandusky had the SAME reputation.

    Lori pretty much explained very clearly what I’m trying to say-I had admired Paterno, I had thought he stood for something good in the world…and now he no longer does, and is instead part of something that’s pretty damn horrible and sickening.

  • Lori

    Lujack: I really am sorry that he turned out not to be who you thought. The person you believed him to be would be truly admirable. It’s a shame that Joe Paterno wasn’t that person. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Hello, Lujack,

    I was being quite harsh in my previous post, and I should have thought before I posted. So if you’ll have it, my apologies.

  • Carrie

    Long-time lurker, first-time commenter. TW for mention/discussion of child abuse although I suppose on this topic that sadly goes without saying.

    I’m really curious as to what basis there is for this idea that the merest hint of suspicion ruins people’s lives, because it doesn’t jibe with my experience at all. A friend of my family was once falsely accused of child molestation (it was a sad and complicated case, the victim was very young and the actual abuser had threatened her life, so when her doctor discovered evidence of the abuse she pointed the finger elsewhere) and although it resulted in an awkward and distressing time for him and his family, the truth did come out thanks to police investigation, and there hasn’t been much of a negative ongoing effect for them. 

     Moreover, there are plenty of cases, including that of Sandusky himself in the 1998 investigation, where people who were accused quite credibly of sex crimes have gone on to have not only normal lives, but additional opportunities to get close to young people.

    Most of the ruined-lives cases I can think of are in the lines of the McMartin or West Memphis Three cases, and revolve around faulty convictions rather than mere accusations. Faulty convictions generally involve perjury, police malfeasance, pseudoscience, and broad community prejudice – not just a single overscrupulous adult reporting something that wasn’t there.

  • Anonymous

    What I can’t get out of my mind about all this is something that happened when I was in grade school.  A classmate of mine was being beaten by her father, who also beat her siblings and her mom.  I tried to convince her to go to an adult about it and when she wouldn’t, I told the school principal.  Who did nothing.  So I told my dad, who was a college teacher at the time and, as such, a mandatory reporter for child abuse (though I’m sure he’d have reported it anyway).  The person he reported it to was pissed that he reported it.  I don’t know if law enforcement ever investigated.  I do know that the mom eventually took the kids and went to a safe house.

    I can’t get it out of my mind because I apparently had more of a grasp of ethics, or at least right and wrong, as a child than the people involved in this case had as adults.  I can’t get it out of my mind because, given the response my dad got, I can’t help wondering if it was reported to the police or other proper authorities at some point in time and not followed up on.  I can’t get it out of my mind because a number of people who, like my dad, were mandatory reporters, didn’t report it.  This is all kinds of fucked up.

    Edit: And on reading the posts at emptywheel, it appears authorities were notified more than once over the years. I think I’ll go be sick now.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    What I can’t get out of my mind about all this is something that happened when I was in grade school. A classmate of mine was being beaten by her father, who also beat her siblings and her mom. I tried to convince her to go to an adult about it and when she wouldn’t, I told the school principal. Who did nothing. So I told my dad, who was a college teacher at the time and, as such, a mandatory reporter for child abuse (though I’m sure he’d have reported it anyway). The person he reported it to was pissed that he reported it. I don’t know if law enforcement ever investigated. I do know that the mom eventually took the kids and went to a safe house.

    This is going to sound harsh, because it is, but this is the kind of situation that warrents taking the law into one’s own hands. 

    The part I find so crazy is that if I were to do what needs to be done in such a situation, I would be the one who went to jail. 

  • Anonymous

    There’s not a whole hell of a lot of taking the law into one’s own hands that a pre-teen can do.  Nor would my dad being hurt or killed trying to – what did you have in mind? kill my classmate’s dad? – have helped matters.  That’s why we have law enforcement and a judicial system.  Does it need fixing?  Hell, yes.  Is vigilantism the answer?  Probably not.  (A tempting fantasy, but reality is a hell of a lot messier than fantasy.)

    In the case of Penn State, I can’t even wrap my mind about the levels of institutional (and law enforcement, apparently) fail involved.  Taking the law into one’s own hands wasn’t even needed there.  There were multiple witnesses in addition to multiple victims.  It should be a slam dunk case.  It seems to have taken so freaking long for there to be a case because the rapist was being actively protected by the very people who should’ve been calling the police.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    There’s not a whole hell of a lot of taking the law into one’s own hands that a pre-teen can do. Nor would my dad being hurt or killed trying to – what did you have in mind? kill my classmate’s dad? – have helped matters. That’s why we have law enforcement and a judicial system. Does it need fixing? Hell, yes. Is vigilantism the answer? Probably not. (A tempting fantasy, but reality is a hell of a lot messier than fantasy.)

    The way I see it, the moment that guy raised his fist in anger against his spouse or child, that relationship needed to be ended, and that end needed to come as quickly as possible.  They need to be seperated, and no reason either party could give that they should stay together will be considered.  It ends, now

    The extra-legal part comes when there is a partner who refuses to immediately seperate, and such a seperation must be made to happen.  The force involved in this will have to escalate until seperation occurs.  For example, the wife needs to be asked to leave the husband.  If she will not, she needs to be insisted to leave the husband.  If she will still not, then there needs to be an intervention of several people arriving at their home, and explaining that she will be leaving now, getting into the van outside with the kids, and being taken to the shelter.  And if the husband resists or tries to call the police, members of the intervention will grab him and keep him restrained until the wife and kids are well on their way.  If she still refuses to go, well, that is when we start hurting her husband in front of her and their kids until she complies…

    Yes, it is harsh and unpleasant.  No, it is not strictly legal.  But allowing them to remain together for one minute longer than necessary is never an option.  Oh, she might have some practical reason why she sees it as necessary that she stays with him and is just too afraid of the consequences if she does, but frankly I do not care.  We can deal with this reasons after the two of them have distance between one another.  Whatever they are, they do not justify remaining. 

  • ako

    Your idea of how to help a battered woman is to kidnap her and torture her husband in front of her, while forcing her children to watch, until she agrees to go off to the shelter?  That is a bad idea in so many ways I’m not entirely sure how to start explaining.

  • Anonymous

    What.

    I don’t even… I just…

    What.

  • JohnK

    Yes, it is harsh and unpleasant.  No, it is not strictly legal. 
    But allowing them to remain together for one minute longer than
    necessary is never an option.  Oh, she might have some practical
    reason why she sees it as necessary that she stays with him and is just
    too afraid of the consequences if she does, but frankly I do not care. 
    We can deal with this reasons after the two of them have distance
    between one another.  Whatever they are, they do not justify remaining.

    I’d just like to make sure that you understand that this is a fantasy. In real life, you can’t make someone press charges or make someone leave their spouse, no matter how much you might want them to. You can ask but if you have to be willing to take ‘no’ for an answer. To do otherwise would be to violate the victim’s rights (again!) and I can’t imagine the mindset of a person who would think that this is helpful.

    The county where I work with has experimented so-called ‘evidence-based prosecutions’ (ie permitting the prosecutor to file charges without the presence or testimony of the witness). These cases are especially challenging because the prosecutor has to work exclusively using 3rd-party witnesses and physical evidence as workarounds for the Confrontation Clause and hearsay-evidence rules. It requires extremely diligent work on the part of dispatchers, first responders, and police detectives literally as soon as the crime is reported.

    Ultimately, though, domestic violence and child abuse are societal problems that can’t be resolved by law enforcement alone. There is some progress; I’ve won convictions recently that maybe ten years ago I would have had to withdraw.

    But it isn’t enough. We live in a culture that normalizes victim-blaming and violence against women, and often veils violence against children in a cloak of secrecy. I’ve been following the recent “Slutwalk 2011” protests throughout the world after seeing a few columns about it on the other Slacktivist website. While they don’t seem to focus on child molestation specifically, I really hope that they catch on because in order to really eradicate this issue we need to force frank and open discussion and change our culture and society.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    FearlessSon: I tried to type up a response to this and really had to stop and think and even had a few false starts over it.

    I think in the end the problem is, for every case of vigilante justice that works well, there has got to be at least one that doesn’t. The abusive husband, instead of coming quietly, manages to sneak a concealed gun out, and starts a firefight that leaves many people dead.

    Or he simply escapes ‘custody’, and now he’s on the loose with no legal way to put out the APB on him without also admitting to false arrest and kidnapping.

    And so on.

    Resorting to the police-state tactic of “disappearing” abusive husbands may work in terms of a totally disproportionate tactic, but the very act of “disappearing” people creates the cloud of suspicion that the government didn’t really have a case to build against the suspected abuser.

    This is why most forms of justice follow the aphorism “Justice must not just be done; it must be seen to be done.”

    I have always thought there is an interesting double meaning to that phrase.

    First, it can mean that justice must be done fairly and impartially. People must see that the verdicts are reasonable and just.

    Second, it can mean that justice must literally be seen. It’s not sufficient to have closed-door trials with secret verdicts. People must be able to watch the act of justice as it happens.

    Abusive husbands put under the sharp shining light of our justice system, convicted properly under our laws, will be so clearly shown to have done wrong that there is no way anyone can say, “but maybe he didn’t.”

    This, your tactic fails to do, because it doesn’t publicly name the offender and demonstrate not just to the offender but to the community at large his guilt in striking his wife.

  • Mackrimin

    Yes, it is harsh and unpleasant.  No, it is not strictly legal.  But
    allowing them to remain together for one minute longer than necessary is
    never an option.  Oh, she might have some practical reason why
    she sees it as necessary that she stays with him and is just too afraid
    of the consequences if she does, but frankly I do not care.  We can deal
    with this reasons after the two of them have distance between one
    another.  Whatever they are, they do not justify remaining.

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its
    victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under
    robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s
    cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be
    satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us
    without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – C. S. Lewis

    No, it isn’t harsh and unpleasant, it’s simply evil, and arrogant as all Hell too. Greedy bastards cause half the problems in this world, and arrogant, violent assholes like you cause the rest.

    BTW: Fearless Son is pretty much how The Right sees liberals in general: as people who want to decide everything for everyone and use force if refused. Is it any wonder if they prefer to side with the robber barons?

  • maybekay

    The lack of respect you have for the woman’s personal agency is pretty disturbing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    My housemate grew up in State College. He lived in the same neighborhood with Joe Paterno. He revered the guy, and probably Sandusky as well. He’s pretty heartbroken now. 

  • Anonymous

    What we need, for everyone’s sake, is a society that treats being arrested as no big deal and definitely not as evidence of guilt.

    Wipe out the assumption that if the police investigate you then you must have done something and all these problems go away or become drastically diminished. Plus, you get fewer incidences of police brutality and coercion (if they acknowledge that an arrest isn’t proof and that their suspect might well be innocent then, with luck, that means less “bending” of the rules to convict the person they “just know” is guilty who has obviously done such a good job hiding all the evidence).

    Of course, since in Canada you can fail a police background check (needed for…a large number of jobs) if you’ve been found “not guilty” or pardoned, I don’t see this happening any time soon.

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    What we need, for everyone’s sake, is a society that treats being arrested as no big deal and definitely not as evidence of guilt.

    It doesn’t help, does it, that so many of the police procedurals in the US show lean so heavily on the side of “if the police arrest you there is a good reason” and return again and again to the theme of “he/she only got off on a technicality

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    and return again and again to the theme of “he/she only got off on a technicality

    There’s so much space to subvert this and it should happen more often.

    Cop 1: Bastard only got off on a technicality.
    Cop 2: What happened?
    Cop 3: It turns out that, technically, you’re not supposed to send innocent people to prison.

    Instead it seems to be that it’s always, “We think X is guilty so X is guilty.  If X is not convicted the only possible explanation is that it’s a miscarriage of justice.  It couldn’t possibly be the case that someone else corrected our mistake.”

  • Anonymous

    It happens sometimes. One of the Law and Order spinoffs (SVU?) had at least one episode where the person that the overwhelming evidence pointed to was innocent, and pointed out that the arrest destroyed his career and marriage.

    I also seem to recall an episode of Castle where the prime suspect “lawyers up”, refusing to talk, and is shown to be innocent, just mistrustful of police.

    But yeah, cop shows should reflect actual conviction rates for arrests.

    Edit: This discussion has reminded me: Anyone here know the joke/urban legend/true story(?) about some police-force-or-other that has arrested a suspect, but lacks evidence. Realizing the guy isn’t too bright they attach some wires to a colander and a printer, put the colander on the guy’s head, and ask him questions, with a cop on a computer nearby printing “LIE” any time he answered. He quickly confesses.

    The humour is supposed to come from how stupid the criminal is, but having read up on what causes faulty convictions (and false confessions) it actually strikes me as incredibly abusive. When police officers, who one is raised to respect and trust, sit you down and hook you up to a “lie detector” (that media will have convinced you is infallible, despite being anything but) which then says that you committed the crime, well, that’s pretty psyche-shattering. Couple that with DAs that push very hard for confessions (“Well, the lie detector says you’re guilty, so you’d be better off just confessing than going to trial, since this way you’ll get a lesser sentence) and I could totally see that “harmless” interview tactic leading to false confessions.

    It’s weird how, until I read up on all this, I thought it was pretty funny. You’d think something’d click in my head to point out that, no, it’s not.

  • We Must Dissent

    Edit: This discussion has reminded me: Anyone here know the joke/urban
    legend/true story(?) about some police-force-or-other that has arrested a
    suspect, but lacks evidence. Realizing the guy isn’t too bright they
    attach some wires to a colander and a printer, put the colander on the
    guy’s head, and ask him questions, with a cop on a computer nearby
    printing “LIE” any time he answered. He quickly confesses.

    Like this?

    http://youtu.be/SHhxZ4BWeBQ

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     This discussion has reminded me: Anyone here know the joke/urban legend/true story(?) about some police-force-or-other that has arrested a suspect, but lacks evidence. Realizing the guy isn’t too bright they attach some wires to a colander and a printer, put the colander on the guy’s head, and ask him questions, with a cop on a computer nearby printing “LIE” any time he answered. He quickly confesses.

    Far as I know, the story originated in David Simon’s quasi-documentary book “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets” (a compilation of newspapers columns he’d written while following around Baltimore City homicide police for a year). It was adapted for the TV series “Homicide: Life on the Streets” (where they threw in a side bit about the cops all pretending to be afraid of the dangerous radiation the machine emitted), and was copied in “Law & Order”, and possibly a few others.

  • Anonymous

    mmy: It
    doesn’t help, does it, that so many of the police procedurals in the US
    show lean so heavily on the side of “if the police arrest you there is a
    good reason” and return again and again to the theme of “he/she only
    got off on a technicality

    Replying both to your post and to mmy’s comment: it seems to me that the way most procedurals work, at least on TV, is that the police suspect person A, and as time goes on it becomes apparent either that person A couldn’t have done it, so they start looking for who did, or that person B is in fact the culprit, and A only looks guilty for circumstantial reasons. (In fact, there’s probably a TV Trope for that, but if I wander into that forest, there goes my afternoon.)

    So I haven’t seen any evidence that TV shows of the police procedural variety assume that police suspicion automatically means guilt. Possibly you are thinking of the (so-called) “reality shows,” like COPS. They are, I think, an entirely different kettle of fish.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    From what I’ve seen (and I haven’t watched such things in a while so apologies if this is inaccurate) it’s the case that, yes, they initially suspect someone who didn’t do it, but when it comes to actually arresting people … well the only time I ever seen cases where they arrested the wrong person were rare times that they had to reopen a case initially conducted off screen.

    If the person they’re sure is guilty isn’t convicted I’ve never seen it be the case that it turned out they were wrong to be sure, instead it’s always presented as they were right but there was miscarriage of justice.  The sole exception being if them being sure happened entirely offscreen, which is very, very rare.Mind you if Matlock has anything to say about it it the police are never right.  (Well, the police are never right if Matlock casts his detect guilt spell and concludes his potential client is innocent.  So not so much the police are never right as Matlock is never wrong.)

    I think the problem comes from the fact that they seem to take place in the magical world where the police are never wrong in their final conclusion, but in that magical world it still isn’t the case that the guilty party is always found guilty.  As a result they do show episodes where the police’s final suspect isn’t convicted, which happens often enough in real life, but every single time they show such an episode that person really is guilty, and that doesn’t reflect the way the word works at all.

    It’s not like they can’t have it turn out that the police are wrong.  They’re already shooting for downer ending by having the guilty party get away so, “You wasted all of this time and effort and the criminal is still out on the streets,” is what they’re going for.  You get that just as much by having it turn out the final suspect is in fact innocent as you do by having it turn out that the final suspect was guilty but got off on a technicality.

    Personally, I like happy endings, I’d be fine if the police were always right in the end in the shows and the person they correctly believed to be guilty always went to jail.  That would still have problematic implications in the extreme but I think it’d better than the current thing where if the police said you did it and you aren’t in jail that means you’re absolutely guilty but you got off on a technicality.

    Less problematic still would be to have the outcomes more closely resemble what happens in real life.  I wouldn’t like that much because, as I said, I like happy endings.  But the point here is beyond what I like.  It’s what kind of a message it sends.  Sending the message that if the police suspect someone and the charges were dropped that means that they’re definitely guilty and simply weaseled out of justice is not good.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Replying both to your post and to mmy’s comment: it seems to me that the way most procedurals work, at least on TV, is that the police suspect person A, and as time goes on it becomes apparent either that person A couldn’t have done it, so they start looking for who did, or that person B is in fact the culprit, and A only looks guilty for circumstantial reasons. (In fact, there’s probably a TV Trope for that, but if I wander into that forest, there goes my afternoon.) 

    The ones I watch, it seems recently like they don’t just suspect person A, they are instantly so convinced of person A’s guilt that they don’t even consider any other suspects and they bully and badger person A and make really obvious idiot-ball mistakes, frequently endangering other people recklessly.

    I’d really like to see more of these cop shows end with person A being shown to be totally innocent, but so utterly broken that their life is obviously over. Because far too often, I get the feeling that the writer was thinking “Yeah, technically he didn’t actually do it, but he’s still a bad person and deserved what he got”

  • P J Evans

    The ones I watch, it seems recently like they don’t just suspect
    person A, they are instantly so convinced of person A’s guilt that they
    don’t even consider any other suspects and they bully and badger person
    A and make really obvious idiot-ball mistakes, frequently endangering
    other people recklessly.

    That’s a lot like real life, actually. The police really do that in a lot of cases (and frequently they also have the right person). It’s the times they have the wrong person, because they didn’t bother to do a real investigation, that give me pause.

  • Dan Audy

    What we need, for everyone’s sake, is a society that treats being
    arrested as no big deal and definitely not as evidence of guilt.

    Wipe
    out the assumption that if the police investigate you then you must
    have done something and all these problems go away or become drastically
    diminished. Plus, you get fewer incidences of police brutality and
    coercion (if they acknowledge that an arrest isn’t proof and that their
    suspect might well be innocent then, with luck, that means less
    “bending” of the rules to convict the person they “just know” is guilty
    who has obviously done such a good job hiding all the evidence).

    Of
    course, since in Canada you can fail a police background check (needed
    for…a large number of jobs) if you’ve been found “not guilty” or
    pardoned, I don’t see this happening any time soon.

    Another important reform would be to make CPS accountable for their actions.  Currently they can impose ANY restrictions they want on a parent’s interactions with their child at the threat of having their child kidnapped for ANY reason they want without any recourse.

  • Porlock Junior

    A couple of odd things about Mandatory Reporting in this case.

    When I first read of the case, I saw a comment that it’s not quite clear that the people at Penn State really were covered by the Pennsylvania law. After reading section 6311 of their child protective code, I think it can be argued both ways.

    “A person who, in the course of
    employment … comes into
    contact with children shall report … when the person has reasonable cause to suspect, on
    the basis of medical, professional or other training and
    experience, that a child under the care … of that person or of an agency … with which that person is
    affiliated is a victim of child abuse…”
    [Boring lists of near-synonyms, necessary in a statute, are skipped here.]

    Do the football coaches come into contact with children in the course of their duties? Maybe some college students who are only 17; or maybe when they’re recruiting? They probably can’t weasel out on this line of reasoning, but maybe.

    Worse: was the kid under the care (etc) of the University? It doesn’t appear so, as he was the guest of a former employee and not in the care of Penn State. The former employee was faculty emeritus, with privileges he’d negotiated when he retired; but that doesn’t look like a convincing argument that his guest was under the care, supervision, etc., of Penn State.

    If they’re really not covered, the State needs to look into this! Surely the rule can be made stronger without turning the whole population into Mandatory Reporters.

    OK, you know who *does* need to be prosecuted for failure to report? Dr. Jack Raykovitz, the boss-man of The Second Mile! First off, the kid was in the care of TSM, and if this was a little outing — hmmm — a little jaunt with Sandusky, who was a big wheel with TSM, that won’t wash as a defense. Probably. Second, “reasonable cause to suspect” is well met by the mildest possible version of what the GA reported — let alone what he testified to before the Grand Jury, which apparently was not transmitted to TSM. Third, Raykovitz got a report of this.

    To be sure, the Penn State officials swore that there was nothing sexual, nothing at all, just horseplay, nothing to see here, move along — but if so, why were they so adamant to get the innocent horseplayer off campus? Not to mention that that testimony has put them under charges of perjury. The case for reasonable suspicion of abuse is powerful.

    Now that I mention it, Paterno was a trustee of TSF. Did that put him in contact with children? If so, he’s a Mandatory Reporter regardless of Penn State. And if his PS connection didn’t *require* him to report it, then reporting it to PS did not satisfy state law! He needed to report it to the cops  — or to Raykovitz or other high person at TSM.

    This is too long; but you know, if it goes to court, stuff like this will be coming up. And I’m serious about the TSM’s reporting obligation. It’s just possible that this line will be investigated, and that it could turn up some ghastly stuff. So hope or pray that it will be investigated, and no new snakes will turn up under the rocks.

  • P J Evans

    Age of consent – under it you’re still legally a child.

  • http://from1angle.wordpress.com emilyperson

    Age of consent – under it you’re still legally a child.

    Sometimes it’s more complicated than that. In my state, for example, you can have reached the age of consent (sixteen) and still legally be a child. And while any legal adult can have sex with any other legal adult, children who have reached the age of consent can only have sex with other children who’ve reached the age of consent. So, an eighteen-year-old having sex with a seventeen-year-old falls under statutory rape, no matter what the circumstances surrounding it are.

  • ako

    Yeah, one area where I do support reforming age-of-consent laws is making sure they all have reasonable close-in-age exemptions so that a high school senior isn’t getting busted for having consensual sex with a classmate who’s a few months younger.  It seems like a good balance between “We have to draw the line somewhere, and it’s not good to make a fifteen-year-old a target for any forty-year-old with a think for kids” and “Birthdays are not actually magic”.  (I also support making them gender-neutral in any jurisdiction where that isn’t already the case.)

  • Lori

     Do the football coaches come into contact with children in the course of their duties? Maybe some college students who are only 17; or maybe when they’re recruiting? They probably can’t weasel out on this line of reasoning, but maybe.

    Worse: was the kid under the care (etc) of the University? It doesn’t appear so, as he was the guest of a former employee and not in the care of Penn State. The former employee was faculty emeritus, with privileges he’d negotiated when he retired; but that doesn’t look like a convincing argument that his guest was under the care, supervision, etc., of Penn State.  

     
    The DA believed that the athletic director and the finance guy (in his role as head of the campus police) were mandatory reporters under Pennsylvania state law, which is why they’ve been charged with failure to report in addition to perjury based on their grand jury testimony. The issue with the head of the campus police is pretty obvious. He’s ultimately responsible for all law enforcement on campus. 

    The AD is trickier and it’s been a long time since I was last covered by mandatory reporter rules, but it’s my understanding that his status stems from the fact that the athletic department at PSU regularly held programs for underage children, like summer sports camps. Sandusky ran summer football camps on school property, which meant that he had a formal, on-going relationship with the school that went through the AD. 

    I assume the DA wouldn’t have filed the charges if he didn’t feel like he was on pretty firm ground in both those cases. Paterno has not been charged with failure to report because it appears that he technically discharged his legal duty when he called his boss, the AD. There are some questions being raised about that based on the question of whether or not Paterno accurately passed on what McQuery had told him, but I don’t know if that will go anywhere. It seems unlikely, but it’s difficult to say at this point. The grand jury investigation was not the best-handled I’ve ever seen and who knows what will shake out now that the story is in the open. 

  • Guest-again

    ‘I can’t applaud Mohler’s attempt to create a sex abuse free zone’
    Shame – because really, what Mohler has committed his institution to (assuming his words are not hollow, of course) is the reporting of abuse to law enforcement, ensuring that his institution will be immediately brought into public view in connection with abuse when it occurs – as it most assuredly will. I feel no need to place any conditions on someone attempting to reduce the amount of children being abused, and the covering up when it occurs that is so routine in a number of other institutions (ever wonder about the Boy Scouts? And if not, maybe the reason is because the Boy Scouts also do an excellent job keeping such things quite?) This is not a case of excusing someone for their other faults or mistaken beliefs – but to the extent that the head of an institution is willing to take concrete action to reduce abuse, including having his own institution placed in direct connection with abuse when members of it are arrested and sentenced as guilty, that step should be given the praise it deserves. And all the scrutiny necessary to ensure Mohler’s words were not merely hollow feel good PR.

    ‘There are a lot of reasons why the police, and sex crimes investigators
    in particular, do this but whether good or bad justification can be
    provided it results in a witch hunt mentality that is nearly impossible
    to defend against.’
    Sadly true – but the fact remains that just a generation ago, we all tacitly agreed to keep everything quiet – for the good, of, well the good of, wait, the good of the … strange, good of the victims just doesn’t fit into that sentence, does it? I an certain that witch hunting will occur, and that in an American context, a lack of reasonableness will mark much of it. And I still think that if witch hunts are part of the price in reducing endemic child abuse, then it needs to be paid. Since the results of the previous model were demonstrably bad and did nothing to reduce child abuse, at least for the victims. For the abusers, the previous model seemed quite comfortable, actually.

  • Ursula L

    A thing worth remembering is that even if what Paterno did (or failed to do) isn’t illegal, it is still immoral.  

    And it is completely reasonable for any institution to have a policy that, if an employee has reason to believe that a child is being harmed, they need to report it to the police or child protective services.  That can be organizational policy even if the person with the knowledge isn’t, legally, a “mandatory reporter.”  

    The welfare of human beings is infinitely more important than winning or loosing a game.  Frankly, even if the team would win every game with everyone involved in the scandal being left in place, and they’d loose every game if those people were kicked out, the right thing to do would still be to kick out anyone who didn’t have the basic decency to report suspicions of child abuse, rape (of anyone) or other tangible harms.  

    Part of the problem is that there is an expectation of “boys will be boys” and a willingness to overlook sexual crimes in general.  If people can get away with failing to report a team member who is suspected of date- or acquaintance-rape, then they won’t think twice if they find out evidence of other sexual crimes.  The line for reporting needs to be drawn, not at the point of the sexual abuse of children, but at the point of a drunk college senior at a party passed out and being raped by team members because she’s too intoxicated to say “no”.  

    “Yes” from a sober adult capable of giving consent, means yes.  

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    How is what I have said any more disturbing than the rape of children being covered up?  How is it any worse than allowing domestic battery to continue?  Is what I think should be done harsh?  Of course it is.  But not acting is the greater evil.  Unless we, as a society, are willing to do what is necessary, it will continue to happen. 

    Again, and again, and again. 

    It.  Must.  Stop.  And we must make it stop.  If the legal mechanisms we have put in place are not taking care of it, then those legal mechanisms are insufficient.  Domestic abuse is not a problem between individuals.  It is a problem for society as a whole, because anyone who continues to get away with it will continue to perpetuate the behavior.  Individual agency no longer has a factor in it by the time it gets to such a stage. 

    It is in fact bigger than any two people and it has to be ended swiftly and decisively. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Nobody’s denying the passion you bring to the discussion, FearlessSon.

    It’s just that there are logistical and ethical difficulties with your proposed remedies to the problems you’re passionate about. It’s like you wanting to bodyguard women or QUILTBAG people in Africa. The idea itself is not wrong, but it can smack of being patronizing if you do it without asking first.

    A related issue is at stake with your idea about forcibly withdrawing abusive husbands from their households. As much as one might like to say it doesn’t matter, the basic principle of our law is that all accused must get a trial. Even the people caught in flagrante delicto. They still have the legal right to have the accusation levelled against them tried in a court of law.

  • Anonymous

    In addition to what others have said, I’ll add that you want to be very careful about setting yourself up as the arbiter. There are judges and juries for a reason. The system, however flawed, works better than one untrained individual making decisions about what action to take.

    Not to mention that, historically, such decisions have as often as not been flawed. A lot of the people who started lynch mobs were convinced that they were defending poor innocent women who just didn’t know enough to be able to see that it just wasn’t safe to be around one of those men.

    The extra-legal part comes when there is a partner who refuses to immediately seperate, and such a seperation must be made
    to happen.  The force involved in this will have to escalate until
    seperation occurs.  For example, the wife needs to be asked to leave the
    husband.  If she will not, she needs to be insisted to leave the
    husband.  If she will still not, then there needs to be an intervention
    of several people arriving at their home, and explaining that she will
    be leaving now, getting into the van outside with the kids, and being
    taken to the shelter.  And if the husband resists or tries to call the
    police, members of the intervention will grab him and keep him
    restrained until the wife and kids are well on their way.  If she still
    refuses to go, well, that is when we start hurting her husband in front
    of her and their kids until she complies…

    You do know that there’s a history of women’s relatives beating up (or killing) their not-accepted-by-the-family husbands or lovers in front of them, don’t you?

  • ako

    How is what I have said any more disturbing than the rape of children
    being covered up?  How is it any worse than allowing domestic battery to
    continue?

    But none of us are arguing for any of those things.

    And if your idea of how to defend your kidnapping-and-torture proposal is “Well, it’s not worse than covering up the rape of children!”, I suggest you go read Fred’s NABA-NABA post:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2007/04/26/naba-naba/

    Domestic abuse is not a problem between individuals.  It is a problem
    for society as a whole, because anyone who continues to get away with it
    will continue to perpetuate the behavior.  Individual agency no longer
    has a factor in it by the time it gets to such a stage.

    This is why your “Individuals are cogs in the machinery of society” thinking creeps me out.  Because it leads to thinking that battered women and abused children are cogs that you are entitled to kidnap and psychologically brutalize in the name of stamping out a social evil.

    When you hold a child down and force them to watch as you torture their father, you are causing them sever harm, even if their father is abusive.  And it’s the sort of harm you should be desperately trying to protect a child from, not deliberately inflicting on them because you imagine it will stamp out domestic violence.

    (It wouldn’t work, anyway.  For one thing, many abuse victims have mixed feelings about their abuser, and “I will torture him until you come with me and accept the help I am trying to force on you” is a good way to increase their sympathy for the abuser and make them wary and mistrusting of people offering them help.  And if they did file charges, any legal case would be complicated by the abuser showing up badly injured, and questions about whether the abuse was mutual, or the victims were involved with recruiting the vigilante assailants.  It’d make it much harder to get a conviction.)

  • Killoren

    It just occurred to me that this discussion is exactly like the ones we have about terrorism.

    “These guys are really evil, so we have to be just as evil to stop them! Disagreeing is almost the same as saying that you support evil! Ignore the speciousness of my argument!

  • Mackrimin

    Individual agency no longer
    has a factor in it by the time it gets to such a stage.

    See, that’s the problem here. If you feel like beating up someone who beats his wife and/or kids, go ahead. That might be right, or it might be wrong; reasonable arguments can be made either way.

    But that’s not what you’re talking about. You and your posse could send the abuser to a hospital, or simply beat him to death, if you really felt that strongly about it. It would accomplish the goal of separating him from his victims. Instead, you came up with a scenario that seems designed to make the victims suffer too. The way you set it up, it’s hard to avoid the thought that you’re trying to punish them too. That might be defended with the (rather weak) argument that the woman should had defended her child by taking him and running – it’s not actually reasonable, but it might be understandable, should this scenario have something to do with your own background. But even that excuse doesn’t explain what you’re trying to punish the kid for – unless, of course, the kid is of no concern for you beyond being useful to make the mother suffer more.

    That’s why your post is so disturbing: you are talking about taking vengeance not only on abusers, but also on their victims, including victims (little children) who could not possibly have influenced the situation in any way. You are, in other words, talking about your desire to abuse abuse victims even more. Oh, and you’re excusing this abuse by claiming that your victim is not fit to make her own decisions, which is classical abuser behaviour.

    TL;DR: Everythink you’ve written makes you seem like a domestic abuser waiting (I hope) to happen. Get help.

    It is in fact bigger than any two people and it has to be ended swiftly and decisively.

    So you admit that what you’re suggesting harms the victim too? Because you seem to be making an excuse for that here.

    I will not step away from what I said. However, I do apologize if my
    passion on this issue is disturbing. I wish my feelings did not cause
    such upset, and I will endevor to share less of them.

    You don’t have passion, you have anger issues, and pretty severe ones at that. And while fantasizing about revenge on random people is certainly satisfying, it’s not healthy and just makes the problem worse. Seriously, get help.

  • http://from1angle.wordpress.com emilyperson

    You know, you might not want to reinforce in front of impressionable little kids the idea that it’s okay to use violence to solve problems. “He started it” isn’t any better an excuse when you’re an adult than it was when you were six years old and hit your classmate. Let the people whose jobs it is to mete out punishment for starting something be the ones to do so.

  • Tonio

    If I had been in Mike McQueary’s position, I hope that I would do the most moral and responsible thing, per the title of Fred’s post here. I’m concerned that I might not, simply as a Pavlovian response to anything involving conflict. Twice I’ve seen people have arguments where they almost come to blows, and both times I seem to freeze, to zone out, and I’m not exactly sure why. I do know that I am very uncomfortable whenever anyone is angry at me, or any individual is upset about something.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I came across an article today which put its finger on something I’ve been inkling towards but wasn’t able to find the words for myself:

    As you absorb the news about the key people at Penn State who ought to have reported what they knew of coach Jerry Sandusky’s alleged assaults on little boys, please keep one thing in mind. Penn State’s cover-up is embedded in the interest it, and all universities, have in keeping many forms of sexual violence and sexual harassment a private, internal matter.  The mistake Penn State made was, in many ways, a simple category error:  they mistook these pubescent boys for women.  They forgot that children occupy a very different status in the law than do the female students, faculty and staff who are most frequently the object of unwanted sexual attention and/or violence. 

    This whole time, I’ve been trying to sort something out that basically boiled down to “If Sandusky had been raping female college students instead of male children, Paterno would probably still be employed.”

    Anyway, it’s here:
    The Penn State Scandal: Connect the Dots Between Child Abuse and The Sexual Assault of Women on Campus

  • Anonymous

    There are so very many ways to critique the Catholic hierarchy without resorting to petty, gendered and (arguably) transphobic insults like “dress wearing guys.”  There is nothing wrong with a guy wearing a dress or any other kind of less “manly” attire.  Try to be a little more creative with the insults, or at least come up with something less shallow than making fun of how someone dresses as a way to show how much you abhor their actions.

    Describing a group of banker/corporate types as ‘suit-wearing guys’ is not unreasonable.  Admittedly, what the Magisterium et al are wearing are technically robes, not dresses, but still…Plus, they are quite silly.

    No, it’s not.  Paterno is accused of neither molestation nor coverup.  Likening him to Polanski (or Michael Jackson, as I have seen elsewhere) is misguided.

    What exactly did Paterno do that was so bad?  I’d assumed he’d been involved in some kind of coverup/terribly incompetent offender removal, but I haven’t really been able to tell.  And what did the president do?

    Because that would require admitting that secular authorities are, and _should be_, superior to the Church? Which might be quite difficult when you’re sitting on a throne in a millenia-old palace, wearing a kingly dress, surrounded by gold and priceless works of art and people kneel before you and kiss your fingers.

    I don’t think it’s an authority issue… it’s not like they’ve ordered the Inquisition to investigate either… or even actually taken any kind of action against the cases they *do* know about.  Apparently there’s some kind of rule that a priest can’t be ‘de-frocked’ without actually being excommunicated (or maybe even with, somehow?), or something like that?  They aren’t using the power they do have, or even ignoring the secular authorities and imposing their own extralegal punishment, or the like…
    And I wouldn’t so much say that secular authorities are ‘superior’ to the church as ‘in a different business entirely’.

    “Gullible kids from the ghetto”?

    ‘Gullible kids from the ghetto’ is a subcategory of kids from the ghetto, it doesn’t neccessarily mean that all kids from the ghetto are neccessarily gullible.  And due to the generally terrible education infrastructure in these ‘ghettos’, it’s not hard to imagine that many such student’s can’t do well in college (heck, even fairly ‘good’ high schools aren’t great at preparing students for college…)But yeah, a certain unpleasant aftertaste to those lines.

    It would be like if every time a researcher at a med school fudged the numbers on a clinical trial they decided to not let any student at the school take the MCATs.

    Or the med school somehow did something bad enough to be disqualified from certification?  Actually removing the school from the NCAA seems more on that level…

    It doesn’t help, does it, that so many of the police procedurals in the US show lean so heavily on the side of “if the police arrest you there is a good reason” and return again and again to the theme of “he/she only got off on a technicality

    I’d say that around 30% of the people arrested (let alone questioned) in police procedurals turn out to be innocent (in the context of the show).Of course, it *is* possible to get off on a technicality.  Typically this means someone along the line screwed up, but there’s also the ‘technically the evil thing done is not actually illegal (ref Wall Street et al)’ occurance.

    Cop 1: Bastard only got off on a technicality.Cop 2: What happened?Cop 3: It turns out that, technically, you’re not supposed to send innocent people to prison.

    I think there was a L&O (or possibly something else?) episode that used a pretty similar conversation.

    But yeah, cop shows should reflect actual conviction rates for arrests.

    Failure isn’t particularly interesting.

    A related issue is at stake with your idea about forcibly withdrawing abusive husbands from their households. As much as one might like to say it doesn’t matter, the basic principle of our law is that all accused must get a trial. Even the people caught in flagrante delicto. They still have the legal right to have the accusation levelled against them tried in a court of law.

    Yes, but there’s such a thing as pre-trial detention.  Mandatory seperation for where domestic abuse is suspected (using the either the ‘reasonable suspicion’ or (preferably) ‘probable cause’ standard here) isn’t unreasonable.  It’s the utterly pointless torture.  If you already have the ‘offender’ in such a compromising position, you can simply drag them off to wherever it is you’re going to ‘warehouse’ them.  You don’t need to beat them until they agree with you.

    So you admit that what you’re suggesting harms the victim too? Because you seem to be making an excuse for that here.

    Criminal investigations, especially of such personal crimes, generally ‘harm the victim’ in some way… but this is not the goal

    This whole time, I’ve been trying to sort something out that basically boiled down to “If Sandusky had been raping female college students instead of male children, Paterno would probably still be employed.”

    There’s a slight difference in that it is theoretically possible the same acts could have not been rape… and also, for some strange reason, I don’t believe there are mandatory reporting laws for adult cases.


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