There has been tremendous focus on the child sex abuse incidents at Penn State, the administrative responses and, most recently, the NCAA sanctions. This situation is instructive in that it spotlights the breadth of the tragedy that occurs when a child is abused.
The effect on the child is immediate in the impact that the abuse has on the way the child responds to the world. It can affect the way that the child relates to family and friends and how the child functions in school. Recent research even indicates that traumatic childhood experiences, left untreated, can cause lifelong intellectual, emotional and health challenges that can ultimately shorten the individual's life span.
The impact of this tragedy often extends to the entire community system. How many parents and children grow more and more concerned about the motives of all of the adults with whom they come in contact? Even if they won't harm the child, will the other adults be there to protect the child if any level of danger is perceived? We've seen the events at Penn State impact the lives of the victims and their families, end otherwise successful careers, impact all of the families of those involved and sully the reputation of an institution historically known for its solid values.
Think of the difference that a call early on to a child protection agency might have made: a call in which the caller's identity cannot ever be revealed; a call that doesn't require detailed knowledge of harm to the child but a reasonable suspicion that the child might be in danger of abuse or neglect; a call that may shorten the list of children harmed by that abusive adult; a call that makes the community feel safer to kids and families because other adults show that they will not tolerate child maltreatment.
People need to be that adult who stands up for safe homes, schools and neighborhoods, and make the call.