Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Did the coach at Penn State do it?

I’m responding to your question of the day about whether the former coach at Penn State charged with sodomizing children did it. I speak as someone who for the last 18 years of my career in criminal justice devoted my primary attention and effort to hearing and sharing stories and cases of sexually assaulted children. Overwhelmingly, they were not believed by child service investigators, expert witnesses, and judges when they sought protection. I and my students also celebrated the healing among the many survivors , and thanked them for the evidence and stories they presented to us.

I appreciate the concern for children’s safety represented by the current wave of media/public/political revulsion of child sexual assault and the harm it does indeed do. but I think asking whether listeners believe the coach is counterproductive.

In England, the media are generally forbidden from naming people charged with or arrested for crimes until and unless they are convicted in court. I wish media in the US would follow their example. If I don’t I know whether the coach is guilty, I can’t believe anyone else knows better, including WOSU listeners.

I will venture this hypothesis: that if the accusations charged are true, then the coach is only one actor in locally, possibly nationally and internationally organized child trafficking. In my experience in these cases those who take the fall for serial child rape and torture just enable us to cut off wider investigation of organized traders in children who chalk up the legal loss as a cost of carrying on business undisturbed.


  1. This particular post has some real food for thought. While I agree with you that the British media restraints should be considered for our country, I also believe that when the evidence is overwhelming as to a dangerous suspect's guilt, it would be wise to publish his name in the interest of public safety, even though he has not as yet been convicted.

    __Howie Katz

  2. Thanks for the comment Howie. I worry about stranger danger far less than our complacency over how children's nearest and dearest hurt them most. May that reality come out of our closets.