Advertisement

Apodaca: Penn State case provides chance to educate

November 19, 2011|By Patrice Apodaca

Most of us would rather take a bullet than stand by and watch a child be hurt. It's difficult for us to fathom a mindset that places a higher priority on the sheltering of a suspected pedophile than on the harm done to alleged victims.

But, as shocking as the Penn State University sex abuse scandal is, the failure of seemingly good people to protect the most innocent and vulnerable among us is all too familiar.

How many times must we witness the eyes-averted, excuse-laden rationalizations of those who could have acted, but did nothing, or did too little too late? It is the very banality of those who live in such denial that sexual abuse survivors find so devastating. The abuse itself is horrific; the cover up can magnify the damage exponentially.

Advertisement

To recap, a former Penn State assistant football coach has been charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse to children. Evidence has emerged that some school officials knew of the alleged abuse, but failed to intervene. No calls to law enforcement authorities were made, according to the grand jury report, despite a particularly appalling eyewitness account of a boy being molested in a locker room shower.

The scandal has engulfed legendary coach Joe Paterno, who was fired amid accusations that he knew of the alleged abuse, yet did nothing more than report it to a university administrator. Penn State's president was also dismissed, and two other university officials have been charged with perjury.

As the Penn State story unfolded over the past few weeks, my thoughts turned to Newport Beach resident Joelle Casteix, a well-known advocate for victims of childhood molestation.

I first met Joelle about a year-and-a-half ago, when I was working on a magazine profile of her. The more I learned about her campaign to shed light into the dark corners of pedophilia and hold perpetrators and their enablers accountable, the more I came to admire her.

Joelle's activism was born out of anguish. She was an emotionally fragile girl from a troubled home when she attended Mater Dei, the Catholic high school in Santa Ana, in the 1980s. A popular teacher preyed on her and pressured her into having sex, she says, and when she asked a school administrator for help, she was rebuffed and told to keep quiet about the abuse.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|