Dear President Erickson,
Young boys were sexually abused at your university for many years, a situation that continued because of the silence of so many people. While those who failed to report their concerns are at fault, your university also has a collective responsibility for fostering a culture that allowed such sexual abuse to continue.
Over the past few weeks, you have focused on the wrong issues. You’ve made decisions about the removal of a statue of Joe Paterno and how best to respond to NCAA sanctions. However, most of the seven billion people in the world aren’t concerned about some 900 pound bronze statue or even about your football team. What they do care about is kids. Why not do something of substance to really help children?
Invest some of your 1.8 billion dollar endowment in creating a Penn State Institute for the Study of Sexual Abuse. I’ve worked with child abuse victims for over 30 years and there is so much we don’t know about this serious problem. Recruit the best researchers from around the world to help us with three issues.
- Treatment of victims. What’s the best way to treat victims of child sexual abuse? How can we measure the impact of our various therapies? Do children of different ages, backgrounds, or gender need different approaches? Develop and help subsidize treatment programs for sexually abused children.
- Treatment of offenders. Conduct research to help us understand why so many people are sexually attracted to kids and act on those impulses. However, be prepared for the outcries of some who simply want to indefinitely incarcerate all sexual predators. While punishment is appropriate, most offenders eventually are released. Ignore those who assert that all sexual offenders cannot be treated. That’s simply not true, but I’ll admit we know very little about effectively treating such individuals. Did you know that about 36% of sexual offenses against children are done by older kids? It would be great if your Institute could help us identify and treat children at an early age who have an inclination toward sexual abuse.
- Why do good people fail to act to stop bad things? Good people at your university had very strong suspicions that children were being sexually abused, but did little or nothing. Why? This has happened so often in situations of sexual abuse, where good people failed to speak up on behalf of kids. Ask your social scientists to study why that occurs and develop a mandatory program in child abuse prevention for everyone in the Penn State community.
Stop talking about football and commit today to funding this Institute. That’s the most meaningful way you can really make a difference in the lives of generations of children.