Advocates for victims of sexual abuse say that Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly sent a strong message that child sexual abuse can’t be concealed when she brought additional charges against three former top Penn State administrators Thursday.
Matt Casey, the attorney representing the man who came forward this summer as “Victim 2,” declined comment, according to a woman who answered the phone at his firm Thursday afternoon. Attorneys for the other victims did not return calls for comment as of press time Thursday.
Kristen Houser, vice president of communications and development for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, said leaders who hesitate or give the “benefit of the doubt” to an offender hurt both people and the institutions they’re trying to protect.
“We need the leaders of our schools, institutions and youth-serving organizations to follow the laws that are put in place to protect children first and foremost,” Houser said. “If you act to protect children, you automatically are also acting to protect your institution.”
The Penn State case, and sexual abuse situations within the Boy Scouts of America, Catholic church and various school districts in Pennsylvania show the dangers of trying to keep sexual abuse allegations out of the public eye, Houser said.
Houser said this shows people that they need to report abuse that they suspect or someone discloses to them instead of trying to play detective themselves.
“Pennsylvania, by filing these kinds of charges, is sending a strong message to people who have the care of children that you must comply with the law that was written to protect children,” Houser said.
PCAR worked with Penn State’s new administration to train more than 9,000 faculty, staff and volunteers about how to comply with child abuse reporting laws, Houser said. They’ve also been trained in how to recognize signs of abuse and how to call in abuse if they have suspicion, Houser said.
Curtis St. John, Male Survivor media spokesperson, said he’s glad that this isn’t being ignored, but he has compassion for Curley.
“As someone once put it, if he walked into the shower and saw Sandusky beating a child with his fist, there’d be no question as to what to do. With this sort of crime, people don’t like to talk about it,” St. John said. “People want to make it go away. Unfortunately, you can’t do that.”
St. John said the men who came forward in the case are a catalyst for change, giving men permission for speaking up about sexual abuse.
A case doesn’t need to go through the justice system for abused men to recover, but the charges should help them feel validated, St. John said. It’s important to be believed as a victim, he said.
Penn State is “stepping up to the plate” in addressing the problem, St. John said, and is setting an example to other organization, such as the Boy Scouts.
“What’s happening at Penn State is horrible, don’t get me wrong,” St. John said. “However, Penn State’s setting an example now for the world.”