Silence fuels abuse

Silence fuels abuse

September 29th, 2012 in Opinion Times

Bryan College President Stephen Livesay didn't go far enough Thursday when he admitted that he "may have been wrong" in squelching a campus newspaper story about a Bible professor who was forced to resign after being arrested on charges of attempted child molestation. Livesay was wrong. He should say so plainly.

His half-hearted apology - "If we have upset or offended anyone relating to this situation, we apologize" - should be shortened, as well. I was mistaken, and I'm sorry, would be fine. It would convey more appropriate remorse. It was Livesay, after all, who told campus newspaper editor Alex Green that the sex-crime charges against Dr. David Morgan couldn't be confirmed, when in fact they were a matter of police record - and the apparent cause of his summer resignation.

Green, to his credit, used printed fliers to put the story out anyway. If any one of several officials at Penn State had had similar courage to speak up immediately when Joe Paterno and his colleagues squelched accounts of child rape by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, there might have been fewer victims there. As it is, Sandusky, finally investigated following a complaint by a mother of a victim, was convicted in June of 45 counts of sexual molestation against 10 boys.

The lesson that looking away in silence can be devastating has been learned far too slowly. Thus countless pedophile priests in the Catholic Church, quietly moved around by bishops and protected by even the Vatican to avoid embarrassment, caused suffering for generations of youth. Protestant preachers, lustful Boy Scout leaders, teachers, coaches and trusted neighbors have remained unreported, and free to continue violating children.

Silence and suppression of reports isn't an acceptable response to discovery of child abuse, and never was. If perpetrators are not reported, and allowed to go unrevealed, they will find it too easy to continue their crimes. Institutions entrusted to care for children and students bear a special burden for vigilance, timely reporting and uncompromising transparency. Keeping abuse secret is no service. It only fuels the problem.